New mobile roaming alerts for UK holidaymakers

Mar 22nd '24

  • Providers will have to send roaming alerts to mobile customers when they’re travelling abroad and provide information about charges that apply
  • New Ofcom rules will also help protect mobile customers in the UK from the impact of inadvertent roaming


UK mobile customers will be better protected against unexpected roaming charges while using their phone abroad and at home, under new rules announced today by Ofcom.


Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, EU ‘roam like at home’ rules – and UK law requiring mobile operators to alert customers of roaming charges when they start to roam – have ceased to apply. Since then, many operators have voluntarily continued to send their customers alerts.


However, a review by Ofcom found that the quality of information being provided can be inconsistent and unclear. Research found that nearly one in five (19%) 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. [1]


New rules

To make sure all mobile customers are given the information they need – when they need it – Ofcom is introducing new protections. From 1 October 2024, mobile providers need to notify customers when they start roaming.


Providers also need to provide clear, free to access information so customers can make informed decisions about whether – and how – to use their mobile phone abroad. This includes ensuring customers understand any roaming charges, including:


  • any fair use limits or time limits that apply;
  • that they can set a spend cap to limit their spend; and
  • where to find additional information about roaming.




“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.” Cristina Luna-Esteban, Ofcom’s Director of Telecoms Consumer Policy


Inadvertent roaming

Sometimes devices inadvertently roam to a network in a different country even though the customer is not physically in that country, and Ofcom research shows that one in seven (14%) UK mobile customers experience this when abroad or still in the UK.


This is a particular issue for people in Northern Ireland, with many thousands of people living near the border. It can also lead to some customers on the English coast inadvertently roaming to French networks.


The safeguards announced will mean that customers will be alerted to the fact they are inadvertently roaming. In addition, under Ofcom’s new rules, providers will need to:


  • give customers clear, comprehensible and accurate information about how to avoid inadvertent roaming in and outside of the UK, particularly in border regions. This could include proactively alerting customers to the likelihood of inadvertent roaming in areas where this often happens; and
  • have measures in place to enable customers to reduce or limit their spend on roaming while in the UK. This could include treating mobile usage in Ireland the same as being in the UK.


Source: Office of Communications (Ofcom)


More information

[1] Yonder conducted an online omnibus survey (PDF, 1.6 MB) in November 2022. The sample consisted of 2,108 adults aged 16+ who were UK mobile customers and was weighted to be nationally representative of the UK population aged 16+. This reference applies to all stats in this news release.


Related: Off on holiday? Follow these tips to avoid a big mobile roaming bill


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