Brexit does not necessarily mean the end of roaming services at domestic prices

Published: 14 January 2021

Not being a part of the European Union since December 31, 2020, and thus constituting a third country, the United Kingdom is not subject to the rules maximizing the charges of roaming and international calls anymore. Nevertheless, service providers may retain the terms used thus far.

Following a lengthy preparatory process, Great Britain and Northern Ireland – jointly called the United Kingdom – left the European Union at midnight on January 31. 2020. The transitional period lasted until the end of 2020, during which every EU rule – including the communications rules – was still in force.

For the subscribers of Hungarian communications services, this meant that they were able to use the roaming services pursuant to the EU’s roaming regulation until the end of 2020, and that the retail prices maximized by the EU were applied to international calls made from Hungary to the UK until the end of 2020, too. However, from 2021, the UK constitutes a third country, thus it is not subject to the rules maximizing the charges of roaming and international calls anymore, which means that the country is not obligated to provide roaming services at domestic prices (“roam like at home”). Nevertheless, according to the Brexit agreement, parties strive to cooperate in connection with roaming charges.

For business policy reasons, mobile service providers may decide to retain the charges in force during the transitional period from 2021, despite the UK not being a part of the EU, or may establish new charges; nonetheless, the communications rule does not require them to provide the services at domestic prices. Charge modification is not obligatory, it does not arise from legislation. Though after the end of the transitional period, roaming service providers are not obligated to use the charges set by the roaming regulation, service providers are also not prohibited from continuing to use these charges. It is entirely up to the service providers whether they modify the charges or not; however, as far as the Authority is aware, they are not planning to do so.

The modification of relevant charges by the service provider constitutes a contract modification, and as such, the domestic rules related to contract modification need to be adhered to. Subscribers may learn more about the charges of international calls made to the UK and of roaming services from their mobile service provider. Service providers shall continue to comply with their obligation to send a so-called “Welcome SMS”, which informs the subscriber about the current charges after crossing a border. They shall also continue to adhere to the rules concerning the financial and data traffic limits, including sending notifications about reaching the limit.