Mobile network giant EE has become the first provider to confirm some customers with high data packages WILL face extra charges to use their full UK allowance while travelling in Europe, even after a supposed 'ban' on EU roaming charges has come into effect.

Last week revealed that the small print of new EU rules which apply from 15 June means networks will still be permitted to charge customers with unlimited or "very cheap" data to use their full UK allowance when roaming, despite official claims the new rules will mean "the end of roaming charges".

Now EE – which announced last week it intends to offer 'free roaming' in Europe to all its customers from 15 June, the day the new EU rules make it compulsory for the majority of the countries covered anyway – has admitted it will apply a fair use limit of 15GB a month.

EE customers with a monthly data allowance of more than 15GB will only be able to use the first 15GB of their allowance in the EU for free, and will then have to pay extra to buy a data add-on.

The firm insists a tiny number of customers will be affected and points out the cap is more generous than it has to be according to the new EU rules. But the announcement shows that networks WILL still be able to charge you to use some of your UK data in the EU after the 'ban' comes into force.

See our Cheap Mobile Roaming guide for full help on cutting costs.

Where EE is offering 'free roaming'

EE has unveiled a series of changes to its roaming policy. Where you'll be able to use your UK allowance abroad without paying roaming fees (subject to the fair use limit on data) depends on the plan you have/take with EE:

  • All existing customers get 'free roaming' in Europe from 15 June. All contract and pay-as-you-go customers will be able to use their allowance, subject to the fair use limit, in 47 European destinations, including the EU and many overseas territories where EU roaming regulations apply regardless, plus a few non-EU territories such as the Isle of Man and Guernsey.
  • New '4GEE Essential' or '4GEE' customers get 'free roaming' in Europe from 10 May. This applies to the 47 European destinations above. Because none of these plans offer more than the 15GB fair use limit, no cap will apply.
  • New '4GEE Max' customers get 'free roaming' in Europe and five other countries from 10 May. All 47 European destinations mentioned above are covered, plus you can roam for free in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the US, again subject to the fair use limit.

EE says 4GEE Max plans are typically those with its largest mobile data allowances and offer their fastest speeds, and include BT Sport app access for the entire duration of the plan – so naturally, expect them to be more more expensive. They'll be available as Sim-only and on contracts that include a handset.

How the fair use limit will work

Despite EE promising 'free roaming', crucially it's confirmed to us that EE customers with a data allowance of more than 15GB will be subject to a 15GB fair use limit. If you hit this limit, you'll have to buy an add-on to use more data. EE data add-ons for use in the UK and the EU are:

  • 100MB to use over a day for £1.99
  • 1GB to use over a week for £6.99
  • 10GB to use until the end of your billing cycle for £19.99

This means that customers with larger allowances will in fact be charged to access all the data they're entitled to under their contact – despite the European Commission pledging that 15 June "will be the end of roaming charges in the EU".

An EE spokesperson confirmed to MSE that the caps would apply, and said "you will never be charged more for data without choosing it. If you hit your fair usage policy we will let you know and you will have to purchase a data add-on to continue."

Under the small print of the EU rules, mobile firms are in fact able to apply a fair use limit to any mobile deal with unlimited or "very cheap" data, and if you go over that cap they can then charge up to roughly £7.80/GB – see our EU roaming charges MSE news story for full details.

The new EU rules apply to roaming in the EU from 15 June, plus non-EU Iceland, Liechenstein and Norway – which are part of the European Economic Area – soon after.

EE to charge some customers to use data in EU despite 'ban' on roaming fees
EE to charge some customers to use data in EU

Think twice before taking out a new contract to get 'free roaming'

Despite the fair use limit, the reduction in roaming charges next month will be a welcome development for many travellers, and new 4GEE Max customers may also be able to benefit from cheaper roaming beyond Europe too.

Yet think long and hard before committing to a new contract for this reason, as things are very much in a state of flux at the moment. Regardless of what network you're on, you'll be able to use (at least some of) your UK allowance throughout the EU from 15 June WITHOUT having to take out a new contract.

If you're travelling to Europe before 15 June, or heading elsewhere, Three's Feel at Home means those on Advanced plans or with a pay-as-you-go bundle can use their allowances (up to a limit of 12GB/mth currently – we don't know what it'll be after 15 June) in 42 destinations – also including the likes of the US and Australia – at no extra charge.

So consider one of Three's pay-as-you-go Sims if your destination is one of the 42 covered. If you travel abroad regularly, look at a specialist Sim.

If you're looking for a new mobile deal anyway, always do a full market comparison. See our Sim-only and Mobile Contract guides for full advice on where to find the top tariffs, as well as everything else you need to know when looking to switch.