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Holidaymakers warned about mobile bill shock

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Written by: Emma Lunn
11/07/2019
Brits travelling abroad can easily rack up costs of more than £100 a day in non-EU countries due to roaming charges.

The Brexit delay means Brits heading to EU countries still benefit from the EU’s “Roam Like At Home” rule. Roam Like At Home allows British holidaymakers to use their phones at no extra cost throughout the 27 EU member states.

But UK holidaymakers heading further afield can incur huge holiday phone bills. Even moderate phone users can rack up costs of more than £100 a day in some destinations, according to uSwitch.com.

The price comparison site says countries such as the USA and Switzerland offer consumer-friendly roaming tariffs across most networks. However, anyone travelling to the United Arab Emirates or Morocco will need to be especially wary, as daily bills of more than £100 are easily racked up in these destinations, especially for people on basic contracts.

Watch out if you have a contract with iD

Prices vary enormously depending on your network provider. uSwitch calculated that a Brit with “average” mobile use in Morocco, Canada or the UAE on the iD Mobile network could pay up to £590 a day. But the same usage on Vodafone would cost just £6 a day.

iD’s monthly plans all come with inclusive roaming to 50 destinations – but Morocco, Canada and the UAE are not on the list.

Lewis Henry, head of customer and marketing at iD Mobile, said: “We like to ensure that we offer competitive prices and all-round value for our customers, even when travelling abroad.

“As part of our bill capping feature, we provide customers with the option to choose their own capped limit, which they’re able to monitor and adjust at any point through the iD app; meaning customers won’t be stung with unexpected ‘bill shock’ upon returning from holiday.”

The other networks also offer the option to cap the amount of money customers can spend on data usage, usually on a monthly basis. However, those who use up their full allowance quickly and then opt out of the cap are at risk of even higher bills.

Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Every year we read horror stories of people returning from trips abroad to huge mobile bills as holidaymakers continue to be stung by high roaming charges.

“The EU’s ‘Roam Like At Home’ rules have helped to ease some of these concerns, but a level of complacency has crept in, with many now just assuming roaming charges are a thing of the past –  which they are not.

“Last year we found that more than half of people in the UK were not aware that there was any difference in roaming charges inside and outside the EU, meaning those leaving Europe are most at risk of being stung.”

Do your homework

The best tip for British holidaymakers is to do a little bit of research and preparation before jetting off.

Most networks offer specific tariffs or add-ons to help customers keep costs down. So before travelling overseas, it is worth checking whether your destination is covered by your existing deal, or if an add-on is available.

“In many cases, you will then be able to use your phone exactly as you would at home, but if you are in any doubt, ensure your data roaming is turned off on your handset. Data is where the real costs are often incurred, and quickly – though most networks do now operate caps to prevent bills spiralling out of control,” said Bhikha, “If you have to roam while away, try to keep your phone usage to a minimum and, wherever possible, connect to the Wi-Fi at your hotel or any location you are at. Alternatively, if you must use your phone a lot when abroad, the most cost effective option is usually to buy a local SIM.”

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