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The cost of living bite: UK mobile providers risk a fall in customers as EU roaming costs rise

Mobile News
December 9, 2022

By Lyca Mobile Chairman, Allirajah Subaskaran

As 2022 draws to a close, it marks two and a half years of financial struggle for many. A result of the pandemic, staff layoffs and the recent conflict in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis has well and truly bitten.

Value for money has once again been thrown into the forefront, as cost conscious consumers are forced to spend more money on everyday expenses. Figures from the Office for National Statistics reported inflation of 10.1% for the 12 months ending September 2022, as prices across the board continue to rise. Alongside rising prices, Brits have witnessed another unwelcome blow from some network providers with the return of roaming fees as they travel within the EU.

Mobile habits set to change as EU roaming costs sting

These added charges are far from insignificant. For a family of four travelling to Europe on a two-week holiday, roaming fees could add more than £100 in costs. And the reintroduction of these charges have not gone unnoticed.

To better understand the problem, we recently surveyed more than 1,000 contract customers from four of the UK’s leading network providers. The numbers underlined that many consumers are actively looking to minimise the amount of data they use when on holiday to bring down costs.

More than two in five plan to rely solely on Wi-Fi on holiday, while 11% plan to go off-grid altogether. What’s more, we expect to see a rise in the purchase of local SIM cards, with 19% of people considering buying them abroad, even though three in four have not bought local SIM cards before.

EU roaming charges are preventing people from remaining connected when travelling, threatening the possibility of a significant mobile usage drop. However, it is not just changing behaviours that operators reintroducing roaming charges need to be concerned about.

Consumers will begin to rally against soaring costs

Our research also showed that the reintroduction of roaming fees is likely to result in consumers considering abandoning their existing provider in search of a more cost-friendly deal.

While almost two thirds (65%) of Brits blame the current cost of living crisis as the economic factor making them most likely to reconsider their phone contract, 44% also said that the return of roaming charges makes them question if they should switch providers.

Further, over a third (36%) stated that free roaming tariffs offered by alternative providers outside of the big four UK operators would prompt them to switch.

As the country looks set to enter a potential recession and the cost of living crisis continues to bite, seeking value is going to be the number one priority for customers. Being able to keep in touch with loved ones and enjoy the advantages of connectivity is vital, which is why Lyca Mobile has remained committed to not reintroducing EU roaming charges and continues to double-down on providing great value packages that make household budgets go further.

Loyalty should be rewarded

Given we were all once accustomed to free roaming, the concept of paying highly to roam in the EU is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those who have stayed loyal to an operator for a considerable time. Operators must expect a change in customer sentiment as their costs rise, and the impact could be significant.

As it stands, customer loyalty is being taken for granted by many operators, and it’s likely that this could encourage customers to go in search of a better deal. After years of security, steady costs and minimal thought, roaming is new to the list of ‘life admin’ that Brits have to contend with. Our research has shown that consumers aren’t afraid to take matters into their own hands and make a change, even if this means leaving a provider they have been with for years.

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