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What is the ‘fair usage’ limit for UK phones being used in France?

Mobile operators impose restrictions on the way customers can use their phones while travelling in Europe

UK mobile operators often impose ‘fair usage’ limits on customers using their phones in Europe Pic: panitanphoto / Shutterstock

Reader Question: Due to being worried about the cost of data roaming for our three-month stay in France, my partner and I moved to Vodafone’s top contract which includes it. There is however a ‘fair usage’ clause in the small print. What does this mean and is it still practical to use a UK sim? 

UK mobile operators impose ‘fair usage’ clauses in their contracts to make sure that customers using their phones in Europe do not do so for months and months at a time or use an excessive amount of data. 

Vodafone states that: “Use of our services while in our Europe Zone [...] is intended for temporary, periodic travel such as holidays and short breaks. 

“You must not use any inclusive roaming services more than would be reasonably expected. 

“We will monitor and check your roaming use. If, during any four-month period, you roam in the Europe Zone or in the Global Roaming Plus destinations for 62 days or more AND your corresponding roaming usage exceeds your usage within the UK, you may incur additional roaming charges. 

“We will send you notification two weeks prior to charging you any additional roaming charges, to allow you time to adjust your usage accordingly.

“These additional roaming charges will be:

  • £0.033 per minute for calls
  • £0.01p per SMS
  • £3.13 per 1GB of data

“You will still be able to receive calls and texts from friends and relatives at no extra cost.”

So, if you think that you would be able to keep your usage within these boundaries – perhaps by sticking to WiFi as often as you can – it should still be practical to use your UK phone in France. 

If not, perhaps it would be advisable to use your UK phone for a certain period, and then buy a French prepaid tourist sim card. For this, you will need to make sure that your phone is ‘unlocked’ and can take a different sim. 

Operators are, since last year, normally required to sell unlocked phones, but you can check whether yours is locked by inserting another sim into it and seeing if it works. If it is locked you will need to contact your provider.

Read more: French holiday-maker racks up €16,000 phone bill on two-week trip

What do other operators say? 

O2 also enforces a fair usage limit, charging customers who use their phones in Europe for 63 days or more in any four-month period. 

Customers whose normal contract includes a data allowance of more than 25GB must also avoid exceeding 25GB while in the company’s Europe Zone. 

Three, EE, Sky Mobile and Vodafone have all reintroduced roaming charges for new and upgrading customers post-Brexit.

The fees depend on the person’s usage and contract.

Related articles 

Vodafone’s new £2 a day roaming fees to hit customers visiting France

Visitors to France to be affected by UK’s Three roaming charge return

Will French mobile companies reintroduce UK roaming fees post-Brexit?

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