Mark Bridge writes:
With the school term over and August just a few days away, UK telecom regulator Ofcom has published a new guide to help travellers avoid ‘bill shock’ after using their mobile phones, tablets and laptops abroad.
It’s reminding consumers that calls, text messages and data charges are likely to cost more when you’re ’mobile roaming’ outside your home country… and can be even more expensive outside Europe.
Claudio Pollack, Consumer Group Director at Ofcom, said “No one wants to return from a relaxing holiday to be faced with an unexpectedly high data bill. Ofcom’s guide offers essential advice for consumers so they don’t get burnt by bill shock this summer.”
Ofcom has now started to warn customers about the risks involved when customers choose special roaming tariffs. Although these can offer benefits of convenience or cost, they also involve opting out of the EU law that limits call, SMS and data prices. It’s a topic we’ve mentioned several times in our podcasts.
Ofcom’s tips for 2013 include:
Download before you leave home
Downloading and streaming can be prohibitively expensive when abroad, so stock up on movies and music before you go away.
Talk to your provider – If you are planning to go online while abroad, speak to your provider before you leave. They may have specific packages for using your device abroad designed to offer discounted rates, including data roaming bundles.
Talk to your network
They may have a choice of special deals for travellers. Alternatively, you may also want to pick up a SIM card from another network that offers special rates around the world.
Turn off data roaming
Restricting your phone to calls and text messages can save you from worrying about automatic updates affecting your data bill.
Using local WiFi hotspots lets you stay online without using a 2G, 3G or 4G mobile connection.
Buy a local SIM card
This can save money because you’ll pay local prices, not international charges. However, some phones may be ‘locked’ to a particular network - and some countries may have rules that make it difficult for foreigners to buy a SIM. You’ll also have a different number when you’re abroad.
Know your charges and be careful about opting out
Mobile network operators are legally obliged to limit your monthly data costs to €50+VAT (around £52 incl. VAT) when you’re abroad anywhere in the world - and to restrict call, text and data costs when you’re in Europe - but these rules don’t apply if you choose a special ‘roaming’ package.
Check your children
Turn off mobile data if you give your smartphone or tablet to a child - and warn them of the risks if they have their own mobile device. Encourage them to let you know if they receive any warning messages about costs.
Tell your network if your phone is lost or stolen
Report any loss or theft of your phone - or its SIM card - to your network as soon as you realise it’s missing. You’re likely to be held liable for any charges until the loss or theft is reported. Setting up a PIN code on the SIM card and the phone increases your security and reduces some of the risk if either handset or SIM is stolen.
[Ofcom guide to using your smartphone or tablet abroad (pdf); Ofcom video guides for avoiding bill shock]
|As well as being part of the team at The Fonecast, Mark Bridge is a freelance writer who specialises in technology. He also turned up on Channel 4 television earlier this year offering money-saving tips for mobile phone users.