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Vodafone hits new customers with EU roaming charges

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Vodafone plans to hit some customers with roaming charges on the Continent despite previously promising not to re-introduce the fees.

The mobile operator said new and upgrading customers would face costs of at least £1 a day from January 6 when using their phones across the European Union.

Customers without free EU roaming in their package can pay for daily passes of £2 from January. Meanwhile, 8 to 15-day passes will cost £8 and £5 respectively.

The changes will start showing up on plans for new customers from August 11, but existing customers will be protected from the costs while on their current plan.

Vodafone joins rival operator EE that announced plans in June to bring back roaming charges after a ban was scrapped because of Brexit.

The BT-owned operator is enforcing a charge of £2 a day on travellers who join as a new customer, or upgraded their phone after July.

A Vodafone spokesman said it wanted to ensure customers "don't ever experience 'bill shock'" when roaming.

"Fewer than half of our customers roamed beyond the Republic of Ireland in 2019," he added.

"Rather than have all of our customers affected by including the additional costs of roaming into all of our tariffs, customers will be able to choose a plan that comes with roaming included, or purchase an additional roaming pass."

The bulk of Vodafone's European roaming agreements run out in December when it will face higher costs as it negotiates new deals now that Britain is outside the EU.

Sluggish handset sales and lower income from roaming charges triggered a 2.6pc decline in Vodafone's revenues to €43.8bn (£37bn) when it reported annual results in May.

Fewer customers travelling abroad due to restrictions imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus has also hit its roaming income.

Karen Egan, of Enders Analysis, said the move was "inevitable" as it exposed operators to up to €75 in monthly wholesale charges per customer.

She now expected Virgin Media O2 and virtual network operators such as Tesco Mobile and Sky to revive roaming charges.

"Free EU roaming has become a highly politically sensitive issue and the operators have been somewhat reluctant to be seen to be reintroducing charges," she added.

"There was a lot of negative press around O2 when it was simply introducing a fair usage cap which brought it into line with other mobile operators, and even more for EE as the first operator to announce the reintroduction of EU roaming fees back in June."

Shares in Vodafone rose 0.2pc to 118p in afternoon trading.