UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has proposed new rules that would ensure UK customers are told about any ‘roaming’ charges when using their mobile phones abroad.
EU rules had previously ensured UK customers could use their mobile phones in Europe for calls, messages and data without paying a premium. However, the UK’s exit from the European Union meant these laws no longer apply. As a result, a number of network operators have re-introduced 'roaming charges' when customers make or receive calls, send text messages or go online when abroad in Europe.
Although many network operators still send alerts to their customers when they start roaming, Ofcom’s research has found that 19% of holidaymakers are unaware they could face extra charges when using their mobiles abroad. It also discovered that 72% of customers who read a roaming alert modified their mobile usage as a result.
Ofcom’s new roaming rules would require all UK mobile companies to tell their customers when they start roaming, how much it will cost them and any action they can take to limit their spend. These would be personalised alerts with specific details about roaming charges and usage limits.
Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Protection, said “Millions of UK holidaymakers head abroad every year and want to stay connected on their travels. But without clear information from their provider, they could find themselves facing an unexpected bill for calling home or going online. These alerts would mean whichever mobile provider you’re with, you won’t be left in the dark about roaming charges and action you can take to manage your spending."
In addition, Ofcom wants networks to offer extra protection against ‘inadvertent roaming’, where a mobile device connects to a network in a different country even though the customer is not physically in that country.
Around one in seven UK mobile customers experience this, either when abroad or still in the UK. For example, 22% of customers in Northern Ireland inadvertently roamed onto networks in Ireland in the last year – and 2% of customers reported having connected connecting to French networks while on the English coast.
The Ofcom consultation will close on 28th September 2023, with a decision expected in early 2024. There’ll then be a six month implementation period.