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Ofcom proposes new guidelines to curb Cell roaming fees

Cell networks should inform folks if they’re going to be charged for utilizing their telephone overseas underneath new plans from the UK regulator.

Ofcom desires folks to be alerted about potential charges for roaming – utilizing minutes, texts or information outdoors the UK.

It says one in 5 folks at present don’t realise they face such charges when travelling.

Underneath the plans, clients should even be advised about any motion they’ll take to restrict roaming-related fees.

Client teams say they’re at present costing British telephone customers greater than half a billion kilos a 12 months.

Ofcom says some cell networks are charging folks roughly £2 a day to make use of their telephone overseas.

It says it is going to decide on the brand new guidelines in 2024, and can give cell suppliers six months to implement them.

The European Union (EU) banned roaming fees in 2017 and – regardless that the UK had voted to depart the 12 months earlier than – the scheme nonetheless utilized to British folks travelling to the EU whereas the phrases of the UK’s departure had been negotiated.

When a Brexit deal was lastly struck, it didn’t embody an extension on the ban on roaming fees within the EU for British cell phone customers, which means UK operators had been allowed to reintroduce them from January 2021.

The UK additionally selected to not introduce legal guidelines requiring firms to inform clients if they might be charged for roaming.

Because of this, Three, EE and Vodafone all reintroduced roaming charges for purchasers travelling to the EU in 2022, whereas O2 says clients can use as much as 25GB of information in a month earlier than being charged.

‘Extremely costly’

Uswitch mobiles professional Ernest Doku mentioned the comparability website “strongly helps Ofcom’s proposal”.

“There are nearly no regulatory protections left for customers once they use their telephones overseas for calls, texts or information utilization,” he mentioned.

“Roaming prices can now be extremely costly, and customers have been left uncovered at a time when a big surprising invoice may have extreme penalties.

“Our analysis exhibits {that a} staggering £539m of surprising roaming fees hit UK customers prior to now 12 months alone.”

Ofcom additionally desires firms to inform folks once they would possibly fall foul of so-called “inadvertent roaming” – when a buyer utilizing their telephone within the UK connects to a cell community from a distinct nation.

Although that is unusual for many in mainland UK, these in Northern Eire – notably on the border – can hook up with networks within the Republic of Eire, whereas some on the south coast would possibly often hook up with a community in France.

Analysis from the Client Council for Northern Eire discovered 22% of consumers within the nation skilled inadvertent roaming.

Ofcom has proposed the introduction of particular tariffs, and even forcing networks to “deal with cell utilization in Eire the identical as being within the UK”. It mentioned some networks at present do that.

“These alerts would imply whichever cell supplier you’re with, you gained’t be left at midnight about roaming fees and motion you’ll be able to take to handle your spending,” mentioned Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom director of telecoms shopper safety.