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Virgin Media O2 rules out roaming return

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Virgin Media O2 has confirmed it is the only major UK operator that will not introduce roaming fees in Europe.

Roaming charges were set to be introduced this month by EE and Vodafone but both have decided to delay the reintroduction, citing ‘technical issues’ and ‘further testing’ as reasons.

Three UK is set to follow by introducing the charges in May.

Despite this, Virgin Media O2 said it would not follow the other major UK operators in bringing back the controversial charges.

“We’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe for customers on O2 or Virgin Mobile,” said Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer of mobile at Virgin Media O2.

“Unlike all the other major mobile networks who are bringing back roaming fees, we will not be following suit. With many Brits now looking to plan a trip abroad, we’ve got our customers covered and extra roaming charges will be one less thing to worry about,” he added.

A survey carried out by the telco indicated that Brits have strong intentions to travel in 2022. By this summer, 75% of respondents to a survey said they expected to travel abroad and a majority said they expect to do so more this year than they did in 2021.

Kester Mann, director of consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight believes that with this decision, Virgin Media O2 has “blown the roaming door wide open”.

“Bucking the market trend to bring back charges, its decision to hold firm will raise eyebrows across the sector and is a blow to rivals,” he said.

“As EE, Vodafone and then Three each confirmed they would reinstate the dreaded fees, it left the door ajar for Virgin Media O2 to break rank and disrupt the market.”

The analyst now expects the operator to “go hell for leather in its marketing as it seeks to position itself firmly on the side of the consumer”.

He adds that the move could hit Three UK the hardest out of the operators that have reintroduced the charges.

“It [Three] was the first to begin to phase out roaming in 2013 and has assertively promoted its Go Roam offer as it looked to differentiate by overcoming common customer pain points.

“If it goes ahead with plans to bring back roaming in May, it risks undoing much of this effort.”

Although, while the telco has stood firm on its decision, it also remains to be seen how Virgin Media O2 will make up for losing out on this potential revenue given the ongoing challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

In response to this, a spokesperson for Virgin Media O2 said: "We believe that taking a customer centric approach and addressing one of our customers stated biggest concerns means that we will retain and acquire more, higher value, customers while also improving NPS."

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