Consumer rights: Roaming charges

Published: 04/10/2014

Summer holidays are wonderful but nowadays you may not just have the holiday blues to deal with when you return but a whopping great phone bill too. So what are the laws around roaming charges and do you have the right to contest a phone bill?

If you’ve been shocked by a hefty phone bill you are certainly not alone; over 40 per cent of holidaymakers have been left with an expensive post-holiday phone bill.

There appears to be a lot of confusion around roaming charges – what they are and how much they cost. For example many of us expect to be charged when receiving a text abroad when actually this service is free!

EU Roaming Charges Cuts

In July this year roaming charges were capped in the EU. This means, if you’re on holiday in one of the European Union countries, phone companies can only charge the following amounts when using your phone (although some operators may offer cheaper rates):

  • Downloading data – 16p (per megabyte) Click here to see what you can get for a megabyte
  • Outgoing call – 12p (per minute)
  • Outgoing text – 4p (per text)
  • Incoming call – 3p (per minute). This includes if it goes to voicemail

Remember though these caps are for EU countries only and so roaming charges in places like America, Australia and Asia are likely to be much more.

It can’t be that much?!

Remember smart phones often have a frequent connection to the internet running so if you didn’t turn off your apps before travelling there’s every chance you were using data as soon as you switched your phone back on. However if you’re convinced your bill is too high there are a number of things you can do.

  1. First check your bill, particularly in light of the new EU caps.
  2. Contact your mobile phone operator and explain why you think it is incorrect
  3. Send a written letter to the phone company outlining the disputed charges and why you believe they are incorrect
  4. If the mobile company does not believe there has been an error, you can make a complaint to either CICAS or the Ombudsman Service: Communications. They will review your case and if they decide you have been wrongly charged, you will receive compensation.

Keep it down

There are many ways you can avoid getting landed with a whopping phone bill when on your jollies:

  • Speak to your operator before you travel and arrange to have a cap put on your usage (you should then receive texts when you are approaching your limit). You can also ask them to switch off your voicemail service.
  • Turn off data roaming. iPhone users can do this by going into Settings > Mobile and switch off Enable 4G and Data Roaming settings.
  • Tell family and friends to text rather than call
  • Only turn your phone on when you really need it
  • Connect to Wifi wherever possible
  • Buy an international SIM card.

Nowadays we can’t seem to get through the day without our phones so it’s not an option to turn your phone off even when you’re on holiday. However if you only want to have fond memories of your holiday rather than a great big phone bill that means keeping the Facebook bragging to a minimum!

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