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How post-Brexit bank changes could affect British people in Germany

As the end of the Brexit transition period looms, the UK has so far failed to negotiate access to the European passporting scheme for banks - here's what that means if you are British and live in Germany.

How post-Brexit bank changes could affect British people in Germany
Photo: DPA

Over the weekend it was reported that, with just three months to go until the Brexit transition period ends, the UK has so far not managed to negotiate a continuation of EU banking rules – known as passporting.

This means that all UK banks will need to apply for new banking licences to provide certain services in each of the 27 different EU countries.

And some banks have apparently decided that this is not worth the hassle in certain EU countries and have begun writing to their British customers registered as living abroad to inform them that they will be closing their accounts or cancelling their credit cards.

READ ALSO: Tell us: Brits in Germany – have you been affected by the closure of a UK account?

Here we take a closer look at the situation for British people living in Germany, and other parts of the EU.

Is it all banks?

No, it's important to be clear that there is no blanket closure of accounts for all Brits living abroad, it depends on who you bank with and the type of account you have.

Essentially applying for new licences will create a lot more admin for banks.

Banks already have to do this for many non-EU countries so clearly it is possible to do. But it seems that some banks are deciding that it's not worth the hassle of doing this for all 27 countries in the EU separately, especially ones where they only have a few customers.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to opening a bank account in Germany

As a country that has a large number of British people living here (estimates vary at around 117,000) there is a good chance that some banks will decided that it is worth their while to negotiate a licence with Germany.

Is it all account types?

No. Again, this depends on the type of account you have, with straightforward current/checking accounts less likely to be closed. It could also be the case that certain products become unavailable – for example our sister site The Local France said many Barclaycard customers in France reported being told that they will no longer be able to use their card.

We were also contacted by a Barclaycard customer in Germany who'd been told a similar thing.

Is it only if I use my German address?

Many British people living in Germany use a 'care of' address in the UK for their banking, for example the address of a family member who will forward on all correspondence they receive.

At this stage it seems that only people who have officially changed their address to a German one are receiving letters from their bank.

Can I challenge my bank's decision?

Banks are free to decide what products they offer and to who, but their decisions can be challenged via the Financial Ombudsman Service – find out more about the procedure to file a complaint here.

The UK government told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits living in the EU probably shouldn't hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: OPINION: 'All certainly has vanished' for British citizens living in Europe 

Which banks?

Here's a look at what we know so far. We'll update this as we get more responses from banks.

Santander – the Spanish banking giant said it was keeping the situation under constant review but told The Local: “We have no current plans to close any of our retail [personal banking] or corporate accounts.”

Lloyds – the bank is understood to be closing business accounts – not personal accounts – of customers living in the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Portugal.

A spokesman said: “We have written to a small number of customers living in affected EU countries to let them know that due to the UK's exit from the EU, regrettably we will no longer be able to provide them with some UK-based banking services. We want to keep customers informed and offer advice on next steps.”

Barclaycard – some readers of The Local France and The Local Germany have been in touch to say that they had received letters from Barclaycard telling them that their account would be closed. Barclaycard is separate to Barclays bank and it is understood that Barclays current accounts are not affected, although the company has not commented on the record so far.

What's next?

Understandably, this has caused real worry among British people abroad. We'll report on this more as we get more information. But feel free to share your experiences or concerns by emailing us: [email protected] or filling out this form.

BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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