With the summer holidays nearly upon us, Brits travelling abroad are being warned not to be complacent about the risk of racking up enormous phone bills due to high roaming charges.
New research from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service, shows that even moderate phone usage can incur costs of more than £100 a day.
While the EU’s popular ‘Roam Like At Home’ policy allows British holidaymakers to use their phones for free throughout its 27 other member states, an increasing number are travelling to non-EU destinations where these rules do not apply.
Countries like the USA and Switzerland offer consumer-friendly roaming tariffs across most networks. However, anyone travelling to the UAE or Morocco will need to be especially wary, as daily bills of more than £100 are easily reached there, especially for those on bare-bones contracts.
Prices also vary enormously depending on network provider. An iD customer, for example, risks paying £584 more per day than a Vodafone customer if they use their mobile phone in countries like Morocco, Canada or the UAE.
Most networks provide a cap for the amount of money customers can spend on data usage, usually on a monthly basis. However, those who use up their full allowance quickly and then opt out of the cap are at risk of even higher bills.
Table: Average daily charges for mobile usage abroad (popular non-EU countries)
Source: uSwitch.com, 09/07/2019
Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com said, “Every year we read horror stories of people returning from trips abroad to huge mobile bills as holidaymakers continue to be stung by high roaming charges.
“The EU’s ‘Roam Like At Home’ rules have helped to ease some of these concerns, but a level of complacency has crept in, with many now just assuming roaming charges are a thing of the past – which they are not.
“Last year we found that more than half of people in the UK were not aware that there was any difference in roaming charges inside and outside the EU, meaning those leaving Europe are most at risk of being stung.
“The best tip for British holidaymakers is to do a little bit of research and preparation. Most networks now offer specific tariffs or add-ons to help prevent customers from losing out. So before travelling overseas, it is worth checking whether your destination is covered by your existing deal, or if an add-on is available.
“In many cases, you will then be able to use your phone exactly as you would at home, but if you are in any doubt, ensure your data roaming is turned off on your handset. Data is where the real costs are often incurred, and quickly – though most networks do now operate caps to prevent bills spiralling out of control.
“If you have to roam while away, try to keep your phone usage to a minimum and, wherever possible, connect to the Wi-Fi at your hotel or any location you are at. Alternatively, if you must use your phone a lot when abroad, the most cost effective option is usually to buy a local SIM.”