Mobile phone customers must be told about roaming charges, rules Ofcom

News, Smartphones

An example of a message mobile customers will receive. This includes details of the the roaming charges that apply, any spending cap the customer has in place, and where to find more information about charges, fair use and spending.
UK mobile customers will have to be told about any roaming charges that apply when travelling abroad, under new rules proposed today by Ofcom.

Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, EU ‘roam like at home’ rules – and UK law requiring mobile operators to alert customers to roaming charges when they start to roam – have ceased to apply. Some providers now charge customers around £2 per day to make or receive calls, send texts or go online when travelling.

Ofcom’s research found that nearly one in five holidaymakers (19%) are unaware they could face extra charges when using their mobile abroad and a similar proportion (18%) said they do not research roaming charges before travelling.

Many people rely on roaming alerts – 94% of travellers are aware of them and more than eight in ten (84%) read them. Of those who read their alerts, 94% rate them as either essential or helpful when they first begin to roam and 72% modify their behaviour when they see one – such as connecting to Wi-Fi (29%), using less data (26%) and switching off data roaming (24%).

To make sure people have the information they need when they need it, Ofcom is proposing new rules and guidance that would require all UK mobile companies to tell their customers when they start roaming, how much it will cost them and any action they can take to limit their spend.

Under these proposals, mobile customers would get personalised alerts including details on:

Roaming charges that will apply including specifying any fair use data limits and the time period that applies to any daily charges.

Any mobile bill limit the customer has in place.

Where to find free-to-access additional detail on roaming charges, fair use policies and how to monitor, reduce and limit spend.

Says Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Protection:

“Millions of UK holidaymakers head abroad every year and want to stay connected on their travels. But without clear information from their provider, they could find themselves facing an unexpected bill for calling home or going online.

“These alerts would mean whichever mobile provider you’re with, you won’t be left in the dark about roaming charges and action you can take to manage your spending.”

Adds Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie:

“Following last year’s rush by the majority of mobile network operators to reintroduce roaming charges, any moves to raise consumer awareness of the issue should be welcomed, especially just before the summer holidays.

“As soon as you land in another country, your network provider normally alerts you to the roaming charges in that area, but these proposals from Ofcom would ensure that each mobile customer has access to a detailed breakdown to make an informed decision before choosing to pay the fees.

“Some providers such as O2, as well as smaller MVNOs such as giffgaff, Lebara and SMARTY still include inclusive EU roaming, so it’s worth double-checking what you might expect in advance.

“For those looking to avoid roaming charges, you can either keep your phone on airplane mode while travelling, or most phones also allow you to turn off data roaming in the settings.”

Chris Price
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