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High mobile roaming costs ‘confusing consumers’

Four in ten don't know mobile charges outside EU

Man using his mobile on holiday

You must pay to receive mobile calls when abroad

High charges for using your mobile abroad, particularly outside of the EU, remain a mystery to many according to recent Which? research. 

Which? has found that although many of those it asked were clued up about the cost of using their mobiles abroad – often called ‘mobile roaming’ – a significant number either didn’t know or wrongly estimated the cost of international mobile use. 

When Which? asked 2,121 members about foreign mobile use in June, it found that:

  • Four in ten people don’t realise that it can cost £1 to £2 a minute to make calls in non-EU countries
  • 15% of people don’t know that you will be charged to receive calls abroad as well as make them

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Mixed information on mobile roaming charges

Half of those asked have used their mobile abroad within the last 12 months, either inside or outside the EU. 

You’d hope that mobile operators would keep their customers well informed of the cost of using their mobile abroad, but Which? members reported mixed levels of information from their providers. 

Just 56% of people who’d travelled within the EU in the last 12 months said their provider had told them about the cost of using their mobile. This figure falls to 43% who were informed of the cost of using their mobile in countries outside of the EU. 

According to Which? members, across all operators Orange was the least likely to have informed its customers of the cost of mobile roaming. Only 22% of Orange customers who’d visited EU countries recalled Orange telling them the costs, and just 17% of those who’d travelled outside the EU. 

In contrast, customers of T-Mobile, which recently merged with Orange, said their provider kept them informed of EU and worldwide costs more than 70% of the time. 

EU mobile roaming regulation

Charges to use your mobile abroad within EU countries are limited by European Commission regulation to around 38p per minute to make calls and around 15p per minute to receive them. 

But if you use your mobile outside of the EU there is no regulation and charges can be much higher – as much as £2 per minute to make or receive calls. 

European Commission rules also require mobile operators to proactively keep their customers informed of the cost of using their mobile in EU countries. Again this rule does not apply further afield. 

Poor awareness risks roaming mobile bill shock

Which? mobile services expert Ceri Stanaway warns: ‘If you don’t know the cost of using your mobile abroad, the chances you’ll experience mobile roaming “bill shock” are much higher.

‘Charges for using our mobiles abroad are a far cry from the inclusive deals that many of us are accustomed to within the UK – 13% of people Which? asked said they’d received unexpectedly high bills after using their mobiles overseas.

‘While it’s always wise to double check the cost of overseas mobile use before you travel, we’d like to see all mobile operators take responsibility for keeping their customers informed – whether they’re travelling to Belgium or Brazil.’ 

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