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Ofcom Protect UK Consumers from Mobile Roaming BILL SHOCKS UPDATE

Friday, Mar 22nd, 2024 (9:11 am) - Score 2,160

The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has today finalised new rules – due to be enforced from 1st October 2024 – that will require mobile network operators, such as Three UK, Vodafone, EE and O2 (inc. MVNO operators), to protect consumers who travel abroad from mobile BILL SHOCKS on data (broadband), call and text charges.

Some readers might well be forgiven for thinking that such protections already exist, probably because you’ve seen or been told about them before, but the reality is a little more complicated. A couple of years ago most of the UK’s primary mobile operators, except O2 (VMO2), scrapped inclusive (free) EU roaming in favour of a return to charges (e.g. a surcharge of £2-£4 per day is quite common) – often despite originally pledging not to do this.

Post-Brexit, the UK Government did introduce some limited protections against the risk of future roaming linked BILL SHOCKS by adding a legislated cap of £45 +vat on roaming charges, including related warnings / SMS messages about roaming charges. But this was a time-limited protection, which came to an end in June 2022, and since then most mobile operators have voluntarily opted to retain the warning system.


However, a review by Ofcom, which was conducted last year, found that the quality of information being provided by mobile operators can be “inconsistent and unclear“. The research found that 19% of holidaymakers are unaware they could face extra charges when using their phone abroad, and a similar proportion (18%) said they do not research roaming charges before travelling.

Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Policy, said:

“The last thing holidaymakers want when returning from a trip abroad is an unexpected mobile phone bill. At the moment, some customers aren’t getting clear information from their provider to help them manage their mobile use and plan their spend.

Our new protections will mean you’re told what it’ll cost when you start roaming, so you can be confident that there won’t be any surprises when it comes to your mobile bill while on holiday.”

The regulator does not have the power to stop mobile providers charging customers for using their services when travelling, so instead they’re introducing new rules and guidance that would require all UK mobile operators to tell their customers when they start roaming, how much it will cost them and any action they can take to limit their spend.

The new rules also tackle the issue of “inadvertent roaming“, which is where mobile phones inadvertently roam to a network in a different country even though the customer is not physically in that country, such as when UK customers on the English coast inadvertently roam on to French networks (Ofcom says 14% of UK mobile customers experience this both when abroad or still in the UK).

The new rules and guidance will apply from 1st October 2024, and you can see a full summary below.


What Ofcom have decided – in brief

Requiring providers to send roaming alerts so that customers can make informed decisions and are protected from unexpected bills

Providers must notify customers when they start roaming (both in the EU and rest of world destinations). The notification(s) must provide clear, comprehensible, accurate information so a customer can make informed decisions when roaming and:

• enable customers to understand any charges that apply to using roaming services, any fair use limits and the time period that applies to any time-limited charges. The new rules give providers some flexibility in how they communicate the information to their customers;

• inform customers that they can specify or modify a mobile bill limit and direct them to information on how to put in place or amend such a limit; and

• direct customers to free to access, clear, comprehensible and accurate additional information on roaming.

While regulatory protections are already in place to ensure that customers are given pricing information and the option to set a mobile bill limit at the time they contract for mobile services, the roaming alert is intended to ensure customers are provided with timely, clear and accurate information at the point of roaming. It should ensure they can make an informed decision about the use of roaming services and are aware of their right to specify or modify a mobile bill limit, helping to protect customers from harms such as unexpected roaming bills.

Providers must protect customers against the impact of inadvertent roaming

The requirements on roaming alerts should ensure that customers are alerted to the fact that they are roaming, including where this is inadvertent. However, considering the potential for harm and to help protect customers from the impacts of inadvertent roaming, we have decided to bring into force the inadvertent roaming rules we consulted on. These will require providers to:

• have measures in place to enable customers to reduce and/or limit expenditure related to inadvertent roaming while they are in the UK (e.g. treating Ireland usage as UK usage).

• provide clear, comprehensible and accurate information to customers about the above measures and also how to avoid inadvertent roaming in and outside of the UK, particularly in border regions.

This approach takes account of providers’ current practices such as treating certain roaming usage as UK usage, which protects customers from the impact of inadvertent roaming while in the UK. This will particularly benefit customers in Northern Ireland who can experience inadvertent roaming on a regular basis.

Guidance setting out expectations and examples of good practice

We are issuing guidance to accompany the new roaming rules to provide greater clarity to providers on what we expect and how we are likely to approach investigating compliance as well as to promote good practice. This includes examples of roaming alerts and steps that providers are already taking to help customers in Northern Ireland protect themselves from inadvertent roaming (e.g. treating Ireland usage as UK usage).

UPDATE 11:26am

We’ve had a comment from O2 (VMO2).

An O2 spokesperson said:

“We’re proud to stand out as the only major mobile provider not to reintroduce roaming fees in Europe, saving our customers money and providing them with incredible value when they travel to the most popular holiday destinations.

Our customers benefit from using their calls, texts and data as they would at home when they’re in Europe, up to 25GB, and wherever our customers go we send them a text message when they arrive at their destination explaining any data limits and charges that may apply.”

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo BillyBob says:

    What’s with the anti-UN advertising I’m seeing on ispreview? Been going on and on. And there’s no way to mark it as unsuitable. This is the only website I get it at.

    1. Avatar photo carlconradw says:

      I am seeing the same anti-UN adverts. Mark, this is a bit troubling isn’t it?

    2. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      That’s really odd, bob I’ve never come across anti-un ads here just the same ad I first saw and it’s never changed

    3. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      This is a touch off-topic. But those are unauthorised adverts that have slipped through Google’s net. Ideally when you see them it helps to log the URL (right click) and also to save an archive copy (HAR file) of the web page when they’re showing (send to me), that way we can report it back to the network and have them blocked.

    4. Avatar photo Jack says:

      I never click on ads and this is the one I clicked on to give Mark some money. End this sham organization that has no accountability and wastes our taxpayer money in insane causes such as destroying women

    5. Avatar photo BillyBob says:

      You haven’t thought this through, have you?
      You never click ads, but will click this one?
      So you don’t really care about the survival of this site.
      The only saving grace is that by clicking you’re taking money away from the anti-UN propaganda machine.
      Thanks for that.

    6. Avatar photo Jaxk says:

      Most ads are not relevant, therefore I do not click on them. It is not rocket science

      The UN has no purpose to exist

  2. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    Targeted advertising???

  3. Avatar photo GNewton says:

    Don’t see any adverts, using AdBlocker Ultimate 🙂

    1. Avatar photo Boris says:

      So you’re a leech that doesn’t support small independent sites? Got it

  4. Avatar photo _ says:

    Seriously what a waste of time. They are actually a regulator and could just say roaming fees are capped at £10 per month or something.

    1. Avatar photo 125us says:

      They can’t set a rule that sees the providers making a loss. That would result in operators just blocking users when they reach £10 if spend.

Comments are closed

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