Our smart phone obsession is costing us dearly as we continue to talk, text and tweet while abroad on holiday.
Despite new EU regulations introduced to cap the cost of foreign mobile usage, Brits are racking up more than £256 million for using their mobiles abroad, according to recent figures from uSwitch.com.
Consumers are still being stung with high charges due to confusion over whether their holiday destination is in the EU, according to the price comparison and switching site. It found that 15% of holidaymakers have returned to large monthly bills averaging £120.
Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, explains: "Not knowing which countries are in the European Union could cause havoc for mobile users this summer. A third of us know about roaming caps, but if those people don't realise that summer sun destinations like Turkey or Croatia aren't in the EU, they could wrongly think they are protected from roaming charges."
From 1 July 2013, mobile networks will be forced to cap roaming charges within EU countries even further than previous regulations called for last year. The new caps will mean it costs just €0.24 per minute to make calls, €0.07 per minute to receive calls and €0.08 to send a standard text message.
Mobile internet users will also enjoy greater protection from high bills as data charges are set to be capped at a lower rate of €0.45 per MB, as well as a €50 cap on overall data usage.
Outside the EU
Travelers to destinations outside of the EU – even still within Europe – don't have such protection and are still vulnerable to high charges. The big sting strikes as many holidaymakers are unaware about the status of their destination country.
In the uSwitch research, almost half (48%) incorrectly think that Croatia - a popular destination for those looking for sun, sea and island hopping - is part of the EU. Norway, Switzerland and Iceland also throw people, with 45%, 36% and 32% respectively believing these countries are in the EU. And almost a third (30%) wrongly reckon that Turkey is an EU country.
In fact, Brits flying to Turkey for seven days this summer could chalk up a whopping £281 mobile phone bill just by making and receiving two five-minute calls, listening to a two-minute voicemail message, sending five text messages and two photo messages each day.
Check before you travel
To avoid returning home to a huge bill, Doku advises making some pre-travel checks: "Talking to your network before you jet off will very likely spare you a nasty post-holiday bill shock, as they may be able to advise a bundle, or at the very least let you know the costs involved with using your phone abroad.
"Limit the damage by keeping data roaming switched off as much as possible. And, when it comes to calls and text messages, the best way to keep costs down to a minimum is to buy a local SIM card, put it in your phone and top it up. If you want to use the internet, wait until you can get Wi-Fi at a hotel or café."
|Network||Cost per minute to make a call||Cost per minute to receive a call||Cost to send a text msg||Cost to send|
a photo msg
|Cost to retrieve a voicemail||Cost for mobile internet|
|O2||£1.50||£1.25||40p||25p||£1.50 per minute||£6 per MB (a max charge of £40 a month will be applied)|
|Vodafone||£1.65||£1.30||35p + domestic text||37p||£1.65 per minute||£3 per MB for the first 5MB. £15 for every 5MB after.|
|T-Mobile||£1.50||£1.50||40p to UK, 50p to non-UK||30p||£1.50 per minute||Internet won't work abroad unless you buy a booster - from £3.75 per MB.|
|Orange||£1.30||70p||40p||60p up to 49.9kb or 75p over 50kb||£1.30 per minute||£8 per MB|
|Three||£1.40||99p||35p||35.7p to UK numbers, 36p to non-UK numbers||£1.40 per minute||£3 per MB|