Mobile networks forced to tell customers of roaming charges under Ofcom proposals

The communications watchdog says around one in five people are not aware it costs more to use your mobile phone abroad. Credit: Ofcom

Anyone who uses a UK mobile phone overseas will be better protected against unexpected charges under new rules being proposed by Ofcom.

The telecoms regulator said that while many mobile phone operators already do, it is planning to make it mandatory for them to text customers when they travel abroad.

According to research that it had commissioned, around one in five holidaymakers do not know they could be hit with extra charges if they use their phone abroad.

Since the UK left the EU, most networks have scrapped their previous arrangements which allowed customers to "roam like home" without incurring extra costs.

Some now face charges of more than £2 per day to make or receive calls and texts or use the internet abroad.

Under Ofcom's proposed rules, networks will have to inform customers of charges which apply in their country, any limits on how devices can be used, as well as ways to reduce and limit their spending.

Some mobile operators already notify customers, even though they have not been required to since Brexit.

The regulator says the new rules will help to protect customers against unexpected charges.

“Millions of UK holidaymakers head abroad every year and want to stay connected on their travels,” said Ofcom’s director of telecoms consumer protection Cristina Luna-Esteban.

“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.”

The move is likely to be welcomed by some Brits who may have inadvertently roamed onto foreign networks without meaning to, in areas like Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man which are covered by non-UK providers.

Ofcom says that's something which has happened to around 22% of people in Northern Ireland in the last year.

A consultation is currently underway into the proposed rules, which could come into force as soon as 2024.

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