British holidaymakers in Europe could see mobile roaming charges return in the event of a no-deal Brexit, government documents suggest.
Since 2017, networks have been banned from charging customers additional fees to use the minutes, texts and most data on their pre-agreed contracts.
But a draft document tabled as part of no-deal preparations indicate that such surcharges could return beyond 29 March – as fee-free roaming would become a “commercial decision” for operators.
Labour has warned that the return of roaming charges would contribute to a “triple-whammy tourist tax” linked to Brexit.
Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson claimed the government had “caved” to the “lobbying might of telecoms companies” instead of listening to consumers.
Consumer groups lobbied hard for a new scheme to maintain current arrangements, the note in a draft change to parliamentary rules reveals – but “after careful consideration, the government not to adopt this proposal”.
Mr Watson also warned that tourists face potential visa costs and a fall in the value of the pound once the UK leaves the EU.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright was hauled to parliament to answer over questions about the document.
He said many phone networks have “no current plans” to change their approach to mobile roaming after Brexit.
Mr Wright added that the government intends to ensure that a financial limit on data usage while abroad is retained in UK law beyond Brexit.
He hopes that this limit would be set at £45 for each monthly billing period – the same as the existing limit.
Mr Watson replied: “He said that mobile phone operators have said they have no plans to raise roaming charges – but he and I both know, and more importantly voters know, what that phrase really means.
“The reason the EU introduced free roaming in the first place was because the telecoms companies could not be trusted to give consumers a fair deal.”
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