Is Three forcing existing customers to lose free roaming?

Customers on old “Go Roam” tariffs will likely have to leave or accept a new contract.

If you’ve been with Three for more than a year and are out of contract, then be prepared to get moved over to a new tariff and lose access to the benefit of free international roaming.

What was “Go Roam”?

A big selling point for Three was not just free roaming in Europe (something all networks offered under EU rules), but also in countries such as USA, Canada, Australia, Vietnam and Chile.

If you were travelling outside the EU this could prove a huge money saver, beating incredibly expensive charges to use your data, minutes and text allowances from these worldwide destinations.

When the mobile network updated its terms for new contracts last autumn, this free roaming, in all non-UK destinations, was removed for new customers or those renewing existing contracts.

However, if you signed up for a deal before 1 October 2021, or just let your contract move onto a rolling 30-day deal, you’d remain on the old terms, and therefore keep access to free roaming in the 71-qualifying destinations.

What’s changing?

Officially, that policy remains the same. Old contract equals old terms. But I’ve seen a few comments on Twitter over the course of the last year where some Three customers claim they were being forced to move over to a new contract under the new terms.

This has seemingly been going on all year, though I’ve not seen anything official about it from Three. And as a Three customer myself, there was nothing to indicate I couldn’t carry on with my current deal.

Well, late last month I got the following email from Three with a similar ultimatum. Choose a new contract at a lower price or be moved automatically onto an alternative rolling contract (at more than double what I pay now). In both cases, it’d be a new tariff under the new terms. And therefore without the Go-Roam benefit.

What Three say

This email showed that Three had gone back on its word to protect the contract for at least some existing customers. But would it apply to everyone on the old terms?

I got in touch with their press office for confirmation, asking very simple questions:

  • Will all legacy customers at some point be transitioned onto a new contract?
  • If so, what would the timeframe for the above be?

Talk about getting blood from a stone. The agency themselves were helpful but seemed to struggle to get an answer from Three. After two weeks of chasing I eventually for the following:

We are in the process of contacting our legacy customers and many will be moved on to our newer plans at some point after their contract end.” And in terms of timelines… “This varies depending on the individual plan that a customer is on.

So what does that actually mean? Well, I can’t say 100% that this will happen to all older customers, but we can infer that it’s incredibly likely to happen at some point.

What it means for your Three contract

If you get the email

If you get this message, you’ve got two choices. Stick with Three on worse terms and potentially a higher price, or ditch them for another network. Sadly there’s no way you’ll be able to stick to what you’ve already got (I tried!).

If you decide to stay and do want to use your phone abroad, you’ll be faced with an automatic £2 daily charge in Europe or £5 elsewhere in the world (but still only in the countries covered). This will be activated the moment you use your phone outside the UK, and lasts for 24 hours (rather than a calendar day so it doesn’t matter what time zone you are in).

Outside these countries, you’ll pay whatever (no doubt massive) roaming charges are set for that destination.

If you want to leave, then hunt around for the best price at a different network. If you want to keep Three’s signal then look at Smarty and ID Mobile. Both have inclusive EU roaming (though watch for fair usage limits).

Once you’ve found a decent deal you can request a PAC (port authorisation code) from Three by SMS. This will bring your number with you to your new network.

You’ll likely be offered some deals from Three to stay. As appealing as these might seem, don’t forget to factor in potential extra charges for overseas use. A 10-day trip to Europe will cost you £20 extra, for example, whereas another network might be the same or less each month but include those charges.

You haven’t had the message

I think you will get this same message at some point. If you’re still on a contract signed before 1 October 2021 then you’l have at least until that ends, which could well be another year or two (depending on the contract length). If you’ve moved onto a rolling contract then there’s the potential for Three to send something at any time.

But until you get a message like this, then you don’t need to do anything. And if you plan to travel abroad soon, especially to non-EU destinations, it’s likely a good idea to do nothing.

Though do use this as an opportunity to check how much you’re paying each month, and how much it compares to other networks. It could be you’re overpaying massively.

You’re already on the new terms

Anyone who took on a new contract after 1 October 2022 (whether by choice or forced) will already be under these terms and face the charges mentioned above. If you’re tied into a long contract you won’t be able to leave for another network until this expires.

Alternatives for free roaming

Inclusive EU-roaming

It’s mainly just the main networks that brought back roaming charges for Europe. So if you avoid Three, Vodafone, and EE, as well as Sky, Voxi and Tesco, you should be OK. Just check before you sign up.

Inclusive worldwide-roaming

If you want to roam beyond the EU then there’s a hack for people who have both an O2 SIM and Virgin Media broadband. You’ll get access to something called Volt that’ll give you free worldwide roaming (to limited locations) as well as access to O2 Priority, double data on your phone and a hike in your broadband speed.

This could work out cost effective for anyone going to those destinations, as long as you’re getting a good deal on your O2 SIM and Virgin media broadband.

Or, and this is the strange bit, you could move to a Three Pay As You Go Sim. It’d likely cost you more money each month than equivalent SIMs, but it might be worth getting one just for when you go abroad as worldwide roaming is covered up to 12GB a month.

6 thoughts on “Is Three forcing existing customers to lose free roaming?

  1. Santander now only gives 1% cashback on phone or broadband DDs. Moving to Smarty I pay on AMEX credit card which gives 1% cashback too.
    Third family member moving to Smarty as Three contract expiring and will lose the free EU roaming. So far no problems.

  2. I recently used a company called Airalo for overseas data roaming. This company offer eSims which can be set up very quickly and are surprisingly cheap v paying the network providers.

    See what you think and if you use my referral below you’ll get a $3 credit.

    Andy – really enjoy reading the site!

  3. One thing to note is that if you get a PAC from Three you won’t be able to port directly into Smarty or ID as they are on the same network so you’ll have to get a free sim from another provider and port to that then port from that into Smarty or ID, pratty but it’s the only way to keep your number. I believe you’d have to do the same with a STAC code to cancel your existing Three contract but of course you wouldn’t have to port it back to Three.

    1. I moved from THree to Smarty and back to Three in the pandemic without needing a third SIM provider.

  4. I’m also a long-term Three customer on “Go Roam” terms and haven’t heard anything from them yet but thought I’d look into changing now to avoid the hassle later. Smarty seemed the obvious choice. However, I noticed that Smarty is actually owned by Three so wonder how long their free roaming will last, especially as Smarty tariffs generally look cheaper then Three’s. Also, I notice that Smarty does not collect by DD so anyone (like me) getting Santander cashback on mobile bills will presumably miss out on that.

    1. Yes you’ll miss out on cashback if you can’t pay by DD so have a look at ID instead which does do DDs. One thing to check though is how good the service is from the ‘satellite’ providers like Smarty and ID as they tend not to be as good as the provider’s own service. My hubby has a Three business sim which is crap but my ID was totally useless, no internet and sometimes no calling either, needless to say I managed after a month of complaints and not having service to get out of the contract FOC.


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