EE mobile phone customers have accused the company of ripping them off after the provider increased the cost of its EU roaming package from £10 to £25 a month in the space of only a few months.
While Tesco, Giffgaff, O2 and Virgin have allowed their customers to carry on using their phones in mainland Europe at no extra cost, EE has pushed through a staggering 150% increase to its popular roaming package that has left customers furious, and threatening to leave.
Roaming charges made an unwelcome reappearance for UK mobile users heading to mainland Europe after Brexit. EE, Three and Vodafone were all quick to reintroduce the daily or monthly charges to use their mobiles while in the EU – which typically add £2 a day.
EE now charges its contract customers £2.29 a day to use their phones as at home while in mainland Europe, or they can buy a monthly roaming pass. These make more sense on a two-week break. The charges only affect those who signed new contracts after the summer of 2021.
Until this spring, EE’s monthly roaming pass cost £10. In March it went up to £15, and then to £25 a month in mid October – this is on top of a 14.4% increase to contract payments that was applied in April.
The reader Phillip White contacted Guardian Money to ask whether the increase was legal. He took out a new two-year contract when the roaming add-on cost £10.
He says he was annoyed when EE upped it to £15 but was astonished when it went up again only a few months later.
“It’s like an insurer selling you a car policy and then writing to you halfway through the year to say that it has increased your excess from £50 to £200 and then again to £400. I can’t believe that operators can just increase these charges by any amount they like. This must affect millions of customers. Why has the regulator not intervened,” he asked.
Other EE customers have been less polite; one writing on the company’s own forum questioned why anyone would want to stay with it.
“Are EE sniffing glue,” they wrote. “I can get a monthly sim-only contract for £12 a month 100Gb (of data) with free EU roaming and unlimited calls and texts (with another provider). Or I can carry on paying EE £25 a month extra when I go away – looks like I will be leaving EE. Way to go ripping people off.”
EE told Guardian Money the price rise reflected the “increased cost of providing roaming services along with making investments into its network and UK customer services”.
It said: “The Roam Abroad Pass also offers significant cost-saving benefits for customers travelling to Australia, US, Canada, Mexico or New Zealand, with roaming to these destinations included in the pass.”
However, its stance looks increasingly out of step with rivals. Tesco Mobile said last week that its customers would be able to enjoy fee-free roaming in mainland Europe until 2025. EE’s biggest rival – the merging O2 and Virgin Mobile – said it was “proud to stand out as the only major mobile provider to offer inclusive EU roaming as standard”.
A spokesperson for the regulator Ofcom said: “Under our rules, telecoms companies must make sure their terms and conditions are clear and transparent. If your provider changes the terms of your contract, they must give you at least one month’s notice and the right to exit penalty-free, if the change isn’t exclusively to the customer’s benefit.”
Ernest Doku, a telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, said EE customers should check their plans before travelling as their current deal may already include a roaming pass as part of their “inclusive extras”.
He added: “Consumers are now at the whim of providers after the end of standard EU protections for mobile users in the UK, and as such networks have a responsibility to ensure any additional costs are clearly communicated.”