Draft Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 laid before parliament

February 8, 2019

The draft Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 have been laid before the UK parliament along with an explanatory memorandum. The Regulations are made under section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 with the aim of addressing failures of retained EU law to operate effectively and other deficiencies arising from the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The deficiencies addressed fall within paragraphs (a), (c) and (g) of section 8(2) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The regulations apply to all parts of the UK.

These Regulations make amendments to legislation in relation to mobile roaming. Regulation 2 amends the Mobile Roaming (European Communities) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1933).

Amendments are also made to the UK versions of EU law which are retained in EU law as part of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Therefore, to the extent they apply in the UK, regulation 3 amends Regulation (EU) No. 531/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13th June 2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union, regulation 4 revokes EU tertiary legislation ancillary to the Regulation and regulation 5 revokes references in the EEA agreement.

The requirements on UK mobile operators to guarantee surcharge-free roaming for customers in the EU are inoperable after the UK’s exit from the EU. This is because the UK will no longer be part of the EU regulatory system for mobile roaming that limits the charges that EU operators can place on UK operators. The costs of regulating retail roaming charges without harmonised wholesale charges may lead to roaming becoming unaffordable for many operators. This would then lead to roaming services being removed from some packages used by customers, or mobile services as a whole becoming more expensive to compensate for the increased costs. The draft regulations therefore remove the requirement on UK mobile operators to guarantee surcharge-free roaming for customers in the EU after exit.

The draft Regulations will retain in UK law:

  • the current transparency obligations on mobile operators to inform customers travelling abroad that they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance;
  • the financial limit provisions set out in the Roaming Regulation, converting the €50 limit to £45. This means that after spending £45, the customer will not be able to consume any more data until they make an active choice to continue. If the customer chooses to consume more data they will face additional costs.

These rules apply to UK customers roaming worldwide.

The instrument will also retain Roaming Regulation provisions to inform customers on how to avoid inadvertent roaming in border regions. Operators will continue to be required to take reasonable steps to protect their customers from paying roaming charges for inadvertently accessed roaming services.

The retained provisions concern consumer protections that do not depend on membership of the EU regulatory framework and do not require a harmonised approach to operate.