Travellers heading abroad this Easter could inadvertently run up huge mobile phone bills, new Which? research has shown.
While the prices for calls, texts and mobile internet usage are capped within the EU, no such rules exist for countries further afield.
That means people heading for popular long-haul destinations could end up paying 10 times more than usual to make calls, and up to four times more than usual to send text messages.
As an example, 3’s pay-monthly customers pay up to £3 a minute to make calls from Russia, and as much as £1.40 a minute when calling from the USA and Australia. But in the UK, even outside of their free monthly allowance, consumers on the same plan would be charged as little as 12p per minute.
Text messages also cost much more from outside the EU. Pay-monthly customers on Orange are charged 50p per message from Turkey, for instance, while the regular UK fee on the same network (excluding any free monthly allowance) is just 12p per message.
Consumers travelling abroad with a UK Sim also have to pay to receive calls. Within the EU, this charge is not allowed to exceed 15p per minute (at current exchange rates). But elsewhere, the costs can be astronomical. Both T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile charge £1.50 per minute to answer calls in South Africa, while Tesco Mobile customers have to pay £1.49 per minute to pick up calls in Croatia.
Mobile internet use
The warning over phone charges comes after a Which? report revealed that people surfing the web abroad could pay up to 1,000 times more for data downloads than they would in the UK. Smartphone and tablet users could be oblivious to the big bills they’re racking up, as applications often access the net automatically to carry out updates.
Rochelle Turner, Head of Research for Which? Travel, said, ‘The last thing holidaymakers want is an enormous phone bill when they get back from their trip. Our research shows the importance switching off your phone’s roaming function or using it sparingly when abroad in order to avoid these hefty charges.’
For more information on roaming charges, and to discover why it costs so much more to call, text and surf when abroad, read the Which? Mobile guide to international calls. Alternatively, check out this page to find out more about the new Which? Travel magazine.