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You & Yours, BBC Radio 4, August 3 – Interview with Dan Howdle on mobile roaming charges

Monday, August 7th 2017 by Dan Howdle
Cable.co.uk’s in-house consumer telecoms expert, who loves going on the radio, but hates talking about himself in the third person, went on BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours consumer show on Thursday 3 August to talk about mobile roaming charges. Here is the transcript from that interview…

Prior to the interview, You & Yours played a pair of case studies from people who have gone abroad with their mobiles, but been caught out by picking up signal from providers across the border in non-EU countries and on trains and ferries, which often use their own provider and are not counted under ‘free roaming’. You can listen to the entire interview here.

Winifred Robinson (presenter): Dan, have you been hearing about these cases as well?

Dan Howdle: Well, I think we have to give it time. The rules for roaming were only changed on 15 June – those being the rules that made it free to roam within the European Union. And of course most people’s bills are deferred for a whole month, so the time we’re going to be hearing about that is about now.

WR: So what is happening here, then? Why are these people finding that they’re not included in the roaming rules?

DH: The rules apply only to EU countries, and of course if you’re perhaps near to the border of one of those countries, what your mobile phone does, being the clever little device that it is, is it looks for the strongest signal.

So, depending on your location, it might find that, let’s say that you’re in Greece for example – as Ken (case study) was – or maybe you’re on the South Coast of Spain, it might actually find that a stronger signal is coming at you across the Med. It will then switch to use that service. It then falls to the user to check which network they’re currently connected to.

WR: How would you do that?

DH: Well, most phones will tell you. I suppose the most interesting point from all of this is that what this really comes down to is people ensuring on the one hand that they’re completely familiar with the terms of the roaming in their contracts. They vary a little between providers, but they don’t vary as far as the big stuff is concerned.

You should check whether on a ferry or ship, or on some international rail services to see if they’re included within the terms of your free roaming. Quite often the companies providing those services will actually use their own provider while you’re onboard.

WR: What Ofcom told us is, what you said, that the roaming charges cap doesn’t always apply. So if you’re on a cruise, and different providers are offering different levels of coverage, and some also have a fair use policy, so if, for example, you use an awful lot of data abroad you might be charged more. So there’s no way to find out other than the hard way, which is to ring and listen to all that pre-recorded music…

DH: Well, you can look in the tiny details of your contract, and actually there’s just a few things you need to jot down, a few things you need to ask yourself before you depart.

Are you going to be aboard a long international train journey? Are you going to be on a ferry? Are you near any borders or in a country where you’re facing across a small sea or body of water to another country? And maybe to jot down the names of the mobile providers that operate in the country you’re visiting in the EU.

That way, if it’s something other than what you recognise showing up on your phone, you’ll know you should maybe think twice before making a call or downloading anything.

WR: Dan Howdle from Cable.co.uk – thanks so much for that…

DH: Thank you.

Dan Howdle, Cable.co.uk

Dan Howdle is Cable.co.uk’s resident telecoms expert. Dan appears regularly in the UK press to talk about issues faced by UK consumers on matters of broadband, TV and mobile, and has appeared on BBC Breakfast, ITV News, Sky News, and on a number of BBC and non-BBC UK radio stations. If you have a question for Dan, you can email him at expert@cable.co.uk.

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