Roaming charges are put in place when the mobile phone network detects that you are abroad and adds extra costs on top of what you normally pay on your national network. Charges are incurred for making calls, receiving a voicemail, picking it up, sending and receiving SMS text messages and pictures and, of course, using the Internet and downloading or streaming.
The European Commission is rolling out a new regulation, called “Roam Like at Home”, on 15 June 2017, when roaming charges in the EU cease to exist. From that date you will pay the same in 28 EU countries as if you were at home as part of your contract allowance. The new rules will be extended to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in a few weeks time (date to be confirmed). All good news? Not if you are a Giff Gaff customer.
Giff Gaff is increasing charges for roaming in countries that are in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) but outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). These countries include Switzerland, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Monaco. Along with other providers Giff Gaff had previously voluntarily included non-EEA countries within the same pricing tier as the EEA. Although it has known about changes to roaming charges since 30th June 2015, it has decided not to continue this agreement, so customers will see a significant increase in charges when roaming in these countries.
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer champion and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! says that she is surprised by Giff Gaff’s decision and suspects that many customers will leave as a result. “It is very shortsighted of Giff Gaff”, she says, “All you have to do is get a SIM card from another network, port the number away a few days before you leave the UK to the new SIM to use the phone as you would in the UK and then port the number back. But Giff Gaff run the risk of losing loyal customers who may well feel that they are being ripped off.”
Dewdney warns “Of course there are also the customers who won’t realise and will end up paying over the odds too.”
When asked for a statement regarding their decision Giff Gaff’s PR company said it would supply one but despite being chased did not do so.
NOTE – A Giff Gaff spokesperson provided a statement too late for sending out the press release but requested that it be added. “Unfortunately, because the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Monaco and Switzerland are not classed as part of the EU, we have not included them in our ‘Roam Like at Home’ offer. We made the decision to amend the current price structure in these countries so that the overall costs to the business caused by changes to EU roaming are not passed on to every giffgaff member. We will be reviewing usage of our members from launch, and in September will likely be making a few tweaks to our policy based on learnings through this period. As a network that doesn’t lock people in to a contract, members will only be charged if they use their phone.”
Your rights when roaming outside of the EU
1) All mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have incurred charges for €50 (excluding VAT) – around £36 – worth of data per month, wherever you travel in the world, unless you choose another limit.
2) The provider must send you an alert to your phone when you reach 80% and then 100% of the agreed data roaming limit. Operators must stop charging for data at the 100% point, unless you agree to continue to use data.
3) Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations 2014, the retailer must ensure the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and ensure that there are no hidden costs. If the paperwork does not comply with the new requirements the consumer may not have to pay. When retailers send you email confirmation of the purchase this must now include a full description of the goods and services purchased, including their characteristics and the full price including tax and any additional charges or delivery prices.
4) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, traders must also provide services with reasonable skill and care.
All you need to know about roaming charges for more information on keeping costs down and how to complain when ripped off.