The UK regulator introduces new plans requiring mobile networks to inform users about potential charges for using their phones abroad.
Ofcom’s objective is to notify individuals about possible roaming charges for using minutes, texts, or data outside the UK.
According to Ofcom, one in five people are currently unaware of the roaming fees they may encounter while traveling.
As part of the proposed plans, customers must also be informed about the actions they can take to control or limit roaming-related charges.
Consumer groups claim that roaming charges are currently causing British phone users to incur expenses exceeding half a billion pounds annually.
According to Ofcom, certain mobile networks are imposing daily charges of approximately £2 for using phones abroad.
The decision on the new rules will be made by Ofcom in 2024, and mobile providers will have six months to implement them once finalized.
In 2017, the European Union (EU) prohibited roaming charges, and despite the UK’s decision to leave the year prior, this regulation continued to apply to British individuals traveling to the EU during the negotiation period for the UK’s departure.
When a Brexit deal was eventually reached, it did not incorporate an extension of the ban on roaming charges in the EU for British mobile phone users. Consequently, UK operators were permitted to reintroduce roaming charges starting from January 2021.
The UK also opted not to implement laws mandating companies to inform customers about potential roaming charges.
Consequently, in 2022, Three, EE, and Vodafone reinstated roaming fees for customers traveling to the EU, while O2 permits customers to utilize up to 25GB of data in a month before incurring charges.
Uswitch mobiles expert, Ernest Doku, informed the BBC that the comparison site “fully backs Ofcom’s proposal,” describing it as “incredibly expensive.”
He remarked, “Consumers have minimal regulatory protections left when using their phones abroad for calls, texts, or data usage.”
“Roaming costs have become exceedingly expensive, and consumers are now vulnerable, especially during times when an unexpectedly large bill could have severe consequences.”
“Our research reveals that UK consumers faced a staggering £539 million in unexpected roaming charges in the past year alone.”
Ofcom is also urging companies to inform people about the possibility of falling victim to “inadvertent roaming,” wherein a customer using their phone in the UK inadvertently connects to a mobile network from a different country.
While relatively uncommon for most individuals in mainland UK, those residing in Northern Ireland, particularly near the border, might connect to networks in the Republic of Ireland.
Likewise, individuals residing on the south coast might sometimes connect to a network in France.
According to research conducted by the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, 22% of customers in the country encountered instances of inadvertent roaming.
Ofcom has proposed the adoption of specific tariffs or making it mandatory for networks to “treat mobile usage in Ireland the same as being in the UK.” Some networks already comply with this approach.
Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s director of telecoms consumer protection, stated, “These alerts will ensure that regardless of your mobile provider, you will be well-informed about roaming charges and the actions you can take to control your spending.”
Source : bbc.com