Holidaymakers should consider switching their mobile phone tariff before they leave the UK – or face rip-off charges when calling home.
That’s the advice from telecoms regulator Ofcom. It’s exposed charges which show that consumers could pay up to eight times more than they need to for making mobile calls when abroad.
For example, a ten-minute call home on O2’s Easylife, Business Pay & Go and Pay & Go Free Best Friend tariffs costs almost GBP 40 from Norway. But on O2’s International Traveller Service this falls to GBP 5.
But Ofcom’s new guide can help consumers get the best deal, and avoid high ‘roaming’ charges.
High mobile phone call costs
Which? has long highlighted the sky-high cost of mobile roaming, and we welcome Ofcom’s move. Last December we published similar tips in Which? to help people save money when calling home.
When you call from abroad, the foreign network charges your operator in the UK, and it then bills you. The complex arrangements mean that making calls and sending texts from abroad usually costs more. Pay-as-you-go customers suffer particularly high costs. When abroad, you also normally have to pay to receive calls and to pick up voicemail.
The Ofcom guide says that some customers could be better off using local pay-phones or email cafes, or a locally bought Sim card. Switching from a pre-pay tariff to a contract -particularly one with a discounted roaming rate – or even buying or renting a phone in the foreign country can also cut costs.
Which? telecoms researcher Ceri Stanaway said:’Ofcom’s advice will come as no surprise to those of us who’ve run up huge mobile bills abroad. But a bit of forward planning can save you money, so check alternatives before you go to find the cheapest option for your destination.’
Mobile phone cost investigation
The Using Your Mobile Abroad guide includes examples of how customers using T-Mobile, O2, Vodafone, 3 and Orange could save money by switching to a different tariff with the same operator.
Ofcom has concerns about the high prices that some mobile operators charge customers to use their phones while abroad. It’s currently investigating the international roaming market in the UK as part of an EU-wide assessment, and aims to give an update in the spring.