Holidaymakers using their mobiles outside of the EU could unwittingly rack up “life-changing” debts totalling more than their holiday actually cost, Citizens Advice has warned.
The charity said many travelling Brits rack up bills in the thousands without even realising. Most don’t know how quickly the cost is rising, whilst others are completely unaware that they are even using roaming data at all.
To combat such problems, Citizens Advice has called on the UK government to roll out a roaming rate cap across the wider world, in addition to the EU-wide version brought in last year. Whilst roaming rates are capped at 17p per megabyte in Europe, outside the EU the price can reach as high as £12.50. To put this another way, streaming a half hour TV show in the EU would cost £32, whilst in Turkey it would set viewers back £1,360.
Currently, mobile companies are obliged to send their users a warning text when their roaming bill reaches 50 euros (£36.50), although they have no requirement beyond this. Many smartphone owners, Citizens Advice claimed, go on to rack up significantly higher bills than the 50 euros without knowing, as this is the only message they receive.
The proposed cap would involve setting a maximum per-megabyte cost, in addition to more regular updates for users as they rack up higher bills above the 50-euro threshold. For those who still come home to a surprisingly large bill, Citizens Advice has called for a more manageable repayment scheme to be put in place, so people don’t have to pay it all off in one go or get pushed into potentially spiralling debts.
In an interview with Sky News, the charity’s chief executive, Gillian Guy, commented: “The market shouldn’t be a lottery where some customers can be unwittingly plunged into life-changing amounts of debt just because they used their phone.
“A voluntary price cap would help better protect customers and companies could do more by giving more warnings to their customers if their bills start to rise.”