New Which? research shows the startling difference that providers can charge for using your mobile phone around the world, as it calls on the Government to publicly commit to prioritising free roaming in post-Brexit trade deals.
Which? analysed the wildly varying fees tourists can face when using their phone in ten countries outside of the EU, including Canada, India and Turkey.
It found there was a significant variation in cost according to the network provider and the country visited when using a mobile device to make a call, navigate using Google Maps or load a webpage abroad.
Following changes brought in last June, UK residents currently benefit from free roaming when travelling in the EU. This means that people can use their mobile device when abroad as they would in the UK at no additional cost, but no such agreement is in place in the rest of the world.
Following its analysis, the consumer champion is calling on the Department for International Trade and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to use new post-Brexit trade deals to scrap mobile fees across the world. The Government should also work to maintain the popular agreement currently in place with the EU.
Which’s new analysis found some startling variations across providers and companies. These include:
- In Canada the cost of a four minute voice call on Whatsapp ranges from just 20p with one provider to £18 with another.
- A tourist using Google Maps to navigate the tricky streets of Mumbai for only five minutes could rack up a bill of between 15p and £6.
- Even something as simple as looking up a few restaurant reviews on holiday can prove costly. Loading just one webpage in Turkey could cost nothing or up to £10.20, depending on the provider.
In order to help people avoid expensive roaming fees, some operators have a €50 cap on data usage, but as the research shows a tourist could quickly hit those limits. A customer does have the option to remove the cap, but doing so opens people up to potentially very expensive bills.
Which? has also heard from members of the public who have faced sky high bills while abroad. This includes one person who was charged £500 to make calls from Turkey to the UK to sort insurance cover following a hospital visit, and another who no longer takes their phone abroad after being hit with a £300 bill to call home during a business trip to Canada.
Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?, said:
“We know people value free roaming while they travel in the EU, so it is vital that this agreement is maintained.
“Government has a real opportunity to extend the benefit of free roaming for people visiting countries worldwide following Brexit, and should make the ability to ‘Roam Like at Home’ a feature for future trade deals with non-EU countries.
“Doing so would be a clear indication of how the Government intends to deliver a Brexit that puts consumers first.”
Notes to eds
- Which? reviewed the roaming charges for data, calls and texts of fourteen (14) different providers in ten (10) different countries for both PAYG and PAYM customers. We then checked the charges against common examples of smartphone activities to ascertain costs for consumers.The countries reviewed were The United States of America, Canada, Barbados, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, India, Thailand, South Africa and United Arab Emirates.All examples of data usages are estimates and the actual amount of data used can vary.
- Data cap – In order to help people avoid expensive roaming fees, some operators have a €50 cap on data usage. However, as the research shows, it may not take long for people to hit those limits. A customer does have the option to remove the cap, but doing so opens people up to potentially very expensive bills.These operators are also required to notify you via text when you reach 80% of this amount, and stop charging for data at 100%.Other operators, like GiffGaff, require you to ‘top up’ your roaming credit before you leave, so there’s no danger of spending more than you’re expecting.
Many providers do offer a range of packages designed to help people who are looking to use their phone abroad keep their costs down. These could be cost-effective to those who’d like to stream music or upload a lot of photos but pricey to those who’d simply like to send the odd text message to family members at home
For example, Vodafone will allow you to access your UK allowance abroad, but in order to do so, customers must pay £6 each day you plan to use their phone. While this may be an attractive option to someone who wants to stream music and upload lots of photos, it’s hardly represents a good deal for someone wants to send the odd text message to family members back home.
- PAYG Costs
- PAYM Costs
- Free roaming while abroad is popular among the UK public, as Which? research found that 66% of people think it is important that free roaming exists when travelling in the EU.