Using data abroad

Roaming inside the EU

Data usage and mobile roaming charges are capped in the EU at the same level you pay in the UK, so your texts, calls and data will come out of your regular allowance which is set out in your contract or pre-pay plan.

When you arrive in another EU country, you’ll normally receive a text from your service provider confirming you won’t be charged extra. You don’t need to do anything before you leave the UK.

However, most mobile providers have a ‘fair use’ policy in their Terms and Conditions that caps the maximum amount of data you can use in one trip to the EU. This can be anywhere from 7GB to 12GB.

Global roaming outside the EU

Some mobile providers have extended their EU roaming policy into other countries, such as the United States or Turkey.

You’ll need to check with your mobile phone service provider before you leave the UK as to what its global roaming offer is in the country you’re heading to.

Be aware that using your mobile phone while on holiday outside of the EU can be expensive, so you may be surprised by a large bill if you used your mobile regularly for making and receiving calls.

What will happen to mobile roaming charges after Brexit?

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, it will be up to telecom companies on whether or not they offer surcharge-free RLAH (roam-like-at-home) after the UK leaves the EU.

This would mean that surcharge-free roaming when you travel to the EU could no longer be guaranteed. Check with your mobile phone provider to see whether or not they will be offering RLAH before you use your phone abroad.

However, the financial limit on mobile data usage abroad will be transferred into UK law. This means any charges incurred abroad should be capped at £45 per month (currently €50 under EU law) when travelling in the EU.

If you exceed this amount, your provider should contact you about spending more via an alert.

If the withdrawal agreement is approved by the EU and UK, it's been agreed that consumer rights will remain unchanged until the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU are decided. This transitional period will last from the date the UK leaves the EU to 31 December 2020.

Read our dedicated Brexit guide for more information on how the UK's departure from the EU could impact your consumer rights.

You can also sign up for Brexit advice updates - Which? cuts through the noise to find the facts. Our practical and impartial consumer advice, rigorously researched and regularly delivered by email, can help you prepare for the UK leaving the EU.

Check your mobile bill

If you think you’ve been overcharged, the first step is to take a good look at your phone bill to make sure it didn’t happen by accident. It might be that your mobile network provider has made a genuine mistake.

Double-check each of the charges, your text and data usage and any calls you might have made to work out whether there’s been a mistake.

If there’s any charges you don’t recognise, check with anyone who might have used your phone in case it was them.

If you’ve checked all these points and still think the bill for your roaming abroad, contact your mobile network.

Your phone was stolen

If your phone is stolen, you have to report it immediately otherwise the phone company will continue to charge you.

It may be a good idea to ask for a confirmation text (if you already have a new phone) or email from your provider to prove that you have called to report your phone stolen.

Contact your mobile provider

Dispute a bill

If you’re unhappy with one of your bills and want to dispute it, we can help you make a complaint.

Start your complaint

Get in touch with your service provider, explaining which charges you think are incorrect and why.

Send a written copy too, highlighting the disputed charges and why you think they’re wrong.

If you capped your mobile usage as part of your mobile phone contract, you may have the right to refuse to pay the sum over and above the cap.

Charging you for anything over and above the agreed cap could be a breach of contract.

Escalate your complaint to the Alternative Dispute Resolution

If your service provider decides not to refund you, and you feel that the charges really are unfair, or were not made clear, you can take your complaint to an Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme.

There are two approved schemes, CICAS and the Ombudsman Services: Communications.

The ombudsman will come to an independent decision after reviewing both sides of the complaint. If you're successful, you will receive compensation.

If you want to complain to the ombudsman about your mobile phone provider, take a look at our step-by-step guide.

Summary 

  • Data usage is capped across EU countries, so you don't pay any more than when you're at home.
  • If you capped your mobile phone usage and the bill was above this cap, you can complain to your mobile operator.
  • If talking to your mobile provider fails, CICAS or Ombudsman Services: Communications may be able to help.
  • It's important to remember that the cap applies to roaming charges only while you're travelling abroad within the EU. It doesn't apply to calling EU countries from the UK - prices to do this can still vary significantly.

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