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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 10:03 GMT
UK mobile users 'exploited'
Children using mobiles
Oftel highlighted a lack of consumer awareness
UK mobile phone users pay twice as much as other European consumers to use their pre-pay mobile abroad, according to a new study.

The extremely high prices for pre-pay international roaming suggest that the UK operators are able to exploit a lack of consumer awareness

Chris Kenny of Oftel

The cost of 'roaming' - the service which allows UK customers to use their mobile phone abroad - are much higher than those in France, Germany, Sweden and Italy.

According to Oftel, the telecoms watchdog that carried out the study, as well as paying higher prices for outgoing calls, UK consumers can pay up to 1.50 a minute to receive incoming calls whilst travelling in Europe.

Many people get caught out because they are unaware of the high prices, and that they get charged for simply receiving calls while abroad.

Less than a quarter of consumers had any knowledge of the price of using a mobile phone abroad when they bought their phone.

Consumer advice

Chris Kenny, Director of Regulatory Policy, said: "There appears to be no clear reason why UK pre-pay consumers pay twice as much as their European counterparts to use their mobile phone abroad.

"The extremely high prices for pre-pay international roaming suggest that the UK operators are able to exploit a lack of consumer awareness. Better consumer information is vital if prices for pre-pay international roaming in the UK are to come down."

Oftel has set out measures to improve consumer awareness and to hep consumers save money when using their mobile on holiday or abroad on business:

  • Frequent travellers should consider swapping their SIM card with an alternative provider - either a foreign network or a dedicated provider or an international mobile phone service -you can buy these at mobile phone shops in the UK and abroad.

  • Change to a different tariff. The cost of monthly line rental may be offset by cheaper rates for international roaming.

  • Consider using text messages instead of voice calls as this can be cheaper. But do check the charges first.

  • Check how much your phone operator will charge you before using your mobile abroad.

    Some phone operators also operate cheap voicemail retrieval systems for people when they are abroad.

    Further advice is available on Oftel's website.

    The BBC's Catherine Marston
    "Pre-paid phones are very expensive to use on holiday"
    See also:

    26 Sep 01 | Business
    Mobile call costs set to fall
    26 Sep 01 | Business
    Picking the right mobile phone
    19 Aug 01 | Business
    'Oftel to order mobile price cuts'
    18 Jun 01 | Business
    Oftel issues scam warning
    04 Apr 00 | Education
    Mobile phone school crime wave
    12 Jul 01 | Business
    EU raids may bring cheaper roaming
    11 Jul 01 | Business
    What is international roaming?
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