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Consumer Rights.

10 August 2021

Can I challenge an excessive bill after using my mobile abroad?

Received an excessive mobile phone bill after using your mobile on holiday? Take a look at our guide to what you can do.
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Which?Editorial team

Using data abroad

Your mobile network can decide how much it wants to charge your for roaming abroad. 

If your network does charge you, there are some protections in place to limit the cost of your bill if you're travelling in the EU:

  • Charges are capped at £45 per month. If you go over this, your network should ask you to opt-in for further use.
  • Your network should also alert you when you're at 80% data usage and again at 100%.
  • In Northern Ireland, networks have been told to make reasonable steps so you won't be accidentally charged if your phone picks up signal from the Republic of Ireland if you're near the border.

Be aware these limits don't apply when you're using your mobile phone outside of the EU and it can be a lot more expensive, you could be surprised by a large bill if you used your mobile regularly for making and receiving calls.

Check your phone provider's policy before travelling to avoid unexpected bills.

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

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.