Posted: Thu 20th Jul 2023

Ofcom proposes new roaming alert protections for UK holidaymakers

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jul 20th, 2023

Mobile providers may soon have to alert UK customers about roaming charges, under proposed rules by Ofcom.

The UK’s communications regulator has proposed a series of new rules to keep customers informed about roaming charges when travelling abroad.

These measures aim to shield consumers from unforeseen expenses and the issues linked with ‘inadvertent roaming’.

With the UK’s departure from the European Union, the obligation for mobile operators to notify customers about roaming charges was eliminated.

This shift prompted certain providers to start imposing a fee of around £2 per day for customers to make calls, send messages, or use the internet while travelling.

According to Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Protection, these “mandatory roaming alerts are being introduced to ensure people have the information they need when they need it.”

Research from Ofcom suggests that almost one in five holidaymakers (19%) are oblivious to the potential extra charges when using their phones abroad. Additionally, 18% admitted they do not research roaming charges before travelling.

Under the suggested rules, mobile customers would receive personalised alerts that include details on roaming charges, any fair use data limits, the duration of daily charges, their mobile bill limit, and information on how to access further details about roaming charges and ways to monitor and reduce spending.

Ofcom’s new proposals also aim to address inadvertent roaming – where a device connects to a network in a different country, even though the user isn’t physically present there.

This issue is particularly prominent in Northern Ireland, where 22% of customers reported experiencing inadvertent roaming onto Irish networks in the past year.

Ernest Doku, Uswitch mobiles expert, commented on the proposals: “We strongly support Ofcom’s proposal of new roaming rules.”

“Since the EU protections expired, consumers have virtually no regulatory protections when using their phones abroad, an issue that we have been very vocal about.”

“Our research shows that a staggering £539 million of unexpected roaming charges hit UK consumers in the past year alone… Given how confusing these policies and plans can be, it’s right that Ofcom is taking this issue seriously,” Doku added.

The proposed rules also stipulate that mobile providers should provide clear information on how to avoid inadvertent roaming and measures that enable customers to limit their roaming spend while in the UK.

Ofcom has invited responses to their consultation by 28th September 2023, with a decision expected in early 2024.

They propose a six-month implementation period from when the decision is published, given that mobile providers already have systems and processes in place to send alerts, although some modifications may be required.

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