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A third of Brits hit by costly roaming charges abroad

New EU rules, however, mean that as of this weekend Britons will be better protected against post-holiday mobile phone bill shocks.


by Victoria Bischoff on Jun 28, 2012 at 00:01

A third of Brits hit by costly roaming charges abroad

More than a third of Brits have been hit by unexpectedly high mobile phone bills after falling foul of costly roaming charges when holidaying abroad, research revealed today.

The average bill is around £125, according to price comparison uSwitch, which means Brits are handing over a total of almost £1.7 billion to networks when they go overseas.  

This is unsurprising, however, given that only around a quarter of people check the roaming charges for their destination before jetting off and are therefore ‘completely in the dark’ when it comes to the cost of making and receiving calls, sending texts and using mobile internet when abroad, said uSwitch.

Three in 10 mobile users fail to switch off data roaming on their handsets when going on holiday, and 29% of people have their phone switched on and in use all the time. This makes them vulnerable to high charges for receiving emails, automatic app updates and push notifications while on holiday.

What’s more, 71% of people have never tried to avoid roaming charges by purchasing a local SIM card when abroad, while two-thirds have never asked their provider about cheaper roaming packages – despite 81% of the 1,850 people polled saying providers charge to much for using mobiles abroad.

Fortunately, new EU regulations due to come into effect from 1 July mean Britons will be better protected against big mobile phone bills when holidaying in Europe, explained uSwitch.

At present mobile phone users are only protected by price caps on calls and texts, but not on data – which is often the biggest culprit of high bills.

And while there is an overall €50 cap on data roaming, from 1 July anyone travelling in Europe will pay no more than 56p for 1MB of data. Previously providers charged £3 or more to download 1MB of data in Europe.

Caps on calls and texts, meanwhile, will be lowered further to 23p per minute and 7p a text. 

‘The new regulations – coupled with the recent launch of consumer-friendly EU roaming packages from T-Mobile, Vodafone and Three – are great news for mobile users,’ said Ernest Doku of

‘T-Mobile automatically alerts all its pay-monthly customers to its £5-per-day data bundle both in and outside the EU; O2 customers have to opt out of its data roaming bolt-on, which kicks in when they roam overseas; and Virgin Media customers can’t roam without purchasing a roaming pass,’ Doku explained. ‘However, other mobile users must opt in to the money-saving roaming bundles offered by their network.’

What’s more, there are no caps in place outside Europe, and networks may not alert users if they rack up bills, which means the days of post-holiday bill shocks are not yet over, uSwitch warned.

US roaming charges

Provider Making a call Receiving a call Sending a text Data (cost per MB)
O2 90p 39p 25p £6, £40/50MB limit
Orange £1.10 70p 40p £8
Three £1.40 99p 35p £3
T-Mobile £1.20 £1.20 40p £7.50
Vodafone £1.35 £1 35p £5/ day up to 25MB (Data Traveller)

3 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Adam Eve

Jun 28, 2012 at 13:06

I have just returned from a week in Bali and 9 days in Vietnam , my TOTAL phone bill (including BUYING the Phone) was less than a Tenner!

Bought the phone and sim card in Bali and Phoned GB, Australia , Bali and Vietnam with a Bali sim card then bought a Vietnam sim card using the same phone and phoning the same places several times.


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Mike Mentzer

Jun 28, 2012 at 13:47

Cool story Bro

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Olivier Rousseau

Jun 28, 2012 at 18:10

July 1st is arriving next week, data roaming prices (for europeans) will be reduced to 0,70€ + 20% VAT = 0,84 per MB

This is still way too expensive, but some solutions emerge with a new form: mobile hotspot rental.

You rent from a provider a small device that connects to the internet using 3G, but you do not have to worry about this part. All you have to do is connect to the wifi signal and surf. Prices can be radically different.

For France, compare the 11 to 16€ per MB an american pays, to the 0,06 to 0,14€ per MB the French provider: offers

When choosing a provider check:

- Price per day

- How many many MB included each day

- Can I report unused MB to the next day

- How much am I charged if I go over my allotment

- Where is the provider's support team based. In case of a problem, only the local ones can react quickly!

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