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Martin Lewis calls for stronger consumer protections around EU data roaming

Telecoms regulator Ofcom and the Government have been urged to tighten the rules after some post-Brexit consumer protections expired (PA)
Telecoms regulator Ofcom and the Government have been urged to tighten the rules after some post-Brexit consumer protections expired (PA)

UK mobile phone operators should be forced to make their rules around data roaming in the EU clearer, consumer group MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) has said.

The group, led by consumer rights champion Martin Lewis, has called on telecoms regulator Ofcom and the Government to tighten the rules after some post-Brexit consumer protections expired.

In a new report, MSE warned that because a range of legal obligations for operators around roaming ended on June 30 this year, firms no longer have to send customers a text message with pricing details when they begin roaming; operate a monthly cap on data roaming fees; or provide protections against inadvertent roaming.

Some of the UK’s biggest networks have reintroduced data roaming charges in Europe after the UK left the EU.

Mr Lewis said the mobile operators could not be trusted to self-regulate as some operators had promised to not reintroduce roaming fees post-Brexit but had now done so, and so called on the Government and regulators to step in.

“I’ve no faith in mobile firms to self-regulate. When we left the EU, they promised not to reintroduce European roaming charges… yet most of the big networks have broken that promise,” he said.

“So our report calls on Ofcom to not trust voluntary promises – we need to reintroduce the formal, compulsory consumer protections.”

MSE’s report also raised concerns around different providers using different definitions of a ‘day’ of roaming, which it said was causing confusion and risking unexpected costs.

The report said that while some operators define a day as 24 hours from first use, others define it as anything up to 11.59pm UK the same day, which the consumer group claimss means someone who signs up at 11.58pm would only get a minute’s worth of data before needing to pay again.

It says this is not explained in arrival texts.

“We need to ban a daily roaming fee charged for use ‘up to 11.59pm’ without even mentioning in which time zone,” Mr Lewis said.

“Instead, we recommend all providers must define a roaming ‘day’ as a 24-hour period from first use, clearly explain that in the arrival text, and alert customers at least an hour before the daily charges end.”