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Networks will have to bring back roaming alerts under new Ofcom proposals

Staff Reporter
July 20, 2023

UK mobile customers will have to be told about any roaming charges that apply when travelling abroad, under new rules proposed today by Ofcom.

Since Brexit mobile operators no longer have to alert customers to roaming charges have ceased. Some networks now charge customers around £2 per day to make or receive calls, send texts or go online when travelling.

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.

Responses to the consultation are invited by September 28 2023 pending a decision early next year with network oepratords getting si moths to implement changes.

Under the proposals, mobile customers would get personalised alerts including details on roaming charges specifying any fair use data limits and the time period that applies to any daily charges, any mobile bill limit, where to find free information roaming charges, fair use policies and how to monitor, reduce and limit spend.

Said Ofcom:  “While many companies have voluntarily continued to send their customers alerts when they start roaming, our review has uncovered concerns that the information provided can be inconsistent and unclear.

“ Our research found that nearly one in five holidaymakers are unaware they could face extra charges when using their mobile abroad and a similar proportion) said they do not research roaming charges before travelling.

“Nearly one in five holidaymakers are unaware they could face extra charges”

“Many people rely on roaming alerts., Most travellers are aware of them and more than eight in 10 read them. Most rate them as either essential or helpful when they first begin to roam and modify their behaviour such as connecting to Wi-Fi, using less data, or switching off data roaming

Ofcom is also proposing requiring mobile providers to provide customers with clear information about how to avoid inadvertent roaming, both when in the UK and abroad. It also wants measures to enable customers to reduce and/or limit their spend on roaming while in the UK. These measures could include offering special tariffs or treating mobile usage in Ireland the same as being in the UK, which some providers are already doing.

“As providers have previously been required to send roaming alerts and many are currently doing so voluntarily, they already have systems and processes in place to send them. However, providers might need to make some changes. 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: said Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Protection Cristina Luna-Esteban,

Cristina Luna-Esteban,

Uswitch mobiles expert, Ernest Doku commented: 

“We support Ofcom’s proposal of new roaming rules. There are virtually no regulatory protections left for consumers when they use their phones abroad since the EU protections expired.

“Roaming costs can now be incredibly expensive, and consumers have been left exposed at a time when a large unexpected bill could have severe consequences.

“While many providers have competitive roaming policies in place, there is massive inconsistency across providers, plans and destinations – both in terms of cost and also the information available.  

“Our research shows t £539 million of unexpected roaming charges hit UK consumers in the past year. For example, Sky Mobile customers heading to the Maldives or Seychelles could be forking out £8.64 every minute for calls to local or UK mobiles and landline numbers. That’s £130 for a 15-minute phone call.

“Many providers will suggest that you purchase a data add-on when you arrive at your destination. However, these often include miniscule data allowances for extortionate prices – for example, with EE, a measly 50MB will cost you £65.32 in Costa Rica, Ghana or Vietnam.

“Given how confusing these policies and plans can be, it’s right that Ofcom is taking this issue seriously. However, as this decision is not being published until ‘early 2024’, it’s vital that implementation happens in time for next year’s summer holidays. Millions of pounds are at stake. Consumers shouldn’t be waiting over a year for changes to come into effect.”

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