What are roaming charges?
Roaming charges are put in place when the network detects that you are abroad and extra rates on top of what you normally pay. Charges for making calls, receiving a voicemail, picking it up, sending and receiving texts and pictures and of course using the Internet and downloading or streaming.
Isn’t the EU doing something about this?
In 2007 the European Commission says it started to tackle reducing roaming tariffs when travelling in the EU. It has been progressively capping the maximum amount a mobile ‘phone provider can charge for services in Europe. On the 15th June 2017 they will end completely.
What are the capped charges?
Remember this is only for countries in the EU. The costs were capped in July 2014 and again from 30th April 2016 (excluding VAT for calls, texts and downloading data).
• Roaming data dropped from around 15p per mb to up to 4p plus the domestic price.
• Outgoing calls dropped from around 15p per minute to up to 4p plus the domestic price
• Incoming calls from around 4p per minute to up to 1p plus the domestic price
• Outgoing texts from around 5p per text to up to 2p plus domestic price
• On 15 June 2017 there will be no extra roaming fee within the EU – it will be the same as domestic price
These price caps are the maximum permissible prices. Operators are free to offer cheaper rates, so keep an eye out for better deals.
From 15th June 2017
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).
What about outside of the EU?
No laws for capping those charges.
Consider buying a SIM in the country in which you are travelling as this may be a better alternative.
Contact your provider to see what offers they have for packages for using your phone abroad.
What can you do to keep charges down?
1) Since July 2014 you can use a different provider. You can have a contract with one operator, for national services, and another with a separate operator, for roaming, so check if this may be a better option.
2) Use free Wi-Fi wherever you can! When out and about make use of any free Wi-Fi, saving picking up voicemails for example.
3) If you’re not using Wi-Fi, avoid using data-heavy activities such as watching videos, updating social media with photos or downloading music. If you are checking emails, avoid opening large attachments.
4) Most providers now offer roaming add ons at a discounted rate which may be worth purchasing. So this allows you extra allowance at no further charge. Depends how much you think you will use your phone abroad. Check with your provider before you go as to how these work and that they apply to the country you are visiting. Also confirm when they will be activated on your account.
5) Switch off the data roaming facility on your phone and put it back on when you actually know you want to use it. If you don’t do this before you leave the UK, your smartphone will automatically seek out an internet connection when you reach your destination and you may start using data without realising it. Make sure that functions such as wifi assist have been also been turned off as they put you on the network without informing the user.
6) Check with your provider that you can turn off voicemail if you don’t think you will need it and be sure to put it back on when you arrive back.
7) If you think you will need to use your phone at sea, check with your provider before you travel how much it will cost to use your phone via a satellite connection.
8) If your ‘phone is stolen whilst you are out of the UK, you could be liable for any charges that get racked up. Contact your provider as soon as possible to avoid facing high charges as a result of unauthorised use. If you are with Three, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone, EE or O2 for mobile services, you should only be responsible for paying up to a maximum of £100 for any unauthorised usage outside of your allowance so long as you report the loss within 24 hours. Also check any mobile insurance you have that may cover this.
9) Explore buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card when you arrive. You’ll have a different ‘phone number but you will only pay local prices. Roaming charges will still apply if you want to make a call or send a text back to your home country using a local SIM. Check with your operator to make sure you can use another SIM with your ‘phone.
10) Check that the country you are visiting is covered by the EU cap! Turkey, Northern Cyprus and Egypt are all popular destinations that are outside the EU. Charges in Switzerland also vary on a network to network basis.
11) Keep an eye on your provider’s free use policy. Some providers add a charge for using all data allowance (although still free for calls and texts).
Your rights regarding roaming charges
1) All mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once you have incurred €50 (excluding VAT) – around £36 – 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.
How to complain effectively
1) Check and see if the company is in breach of any of the above.
2) If so, contact the company in writing not ‘phone.
3) See Top 20 tips on how to complain and How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results for more information, advice, tips, guidance and template letters for complaining effectively.
4) If not happy with the response email the CEO using ceoemail.com to find the address.
5) Threaten to take the case to the Ombudsman. Check whether your provider is a member of CISAS or Ombudsman Services and take your case there. You can use the ombudsman after 8 weeks since your first complaint or request a letter of deadlock.
Ombudsman Services says that almost 30% of complaints they receive about mobile phone services are about billing and data roaming. It’s often the case that customers do not fully understand the implications of opting out of the cap or read the notifications so it asks for proof from providers they have been sent.
Those they take on generally fall into one of the following categories:
* disputed data roaming charges or “bill shock”;
* service failures while roaming; and
* a company failing to cap a customer’s usage or send usage notifications.
It says, “If the provider has followed the rules then the customer usually has to pay. It is sometimes possible to get the provider to reduce the bill, but there is no compunction on them to do so.”