Carphone: People are clueless about data-roaming costs

Only one in 10 people checks their operator's data-roaming charges or activates bundles of megabytes before they go abroad, research from Carphone Warehouse has shown
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Only one in 10 people check their network's data-roaming charges or activate cheaper bundles of megabytes before going on holiday, the phone retailer Carphone Warehouse has found.

In a survey of more than 2,000 people, the company found that just six percent of respondents knew how much they were charged per megabyte when travelling abroad, 11 percent bother to check before they travel, and 81 percent have had a bill up to £100 more expensive than usual when they go on holiday.

At the same time, Carphone Warehouse said on Monday, around 85 percent of the contract phones they sell are web-centric smartphones.

"We've seen a real increase in smartphone users over the past year," Carphone Warehouse UK managing director Matt Stringer said in a statement. "However, even though adoption is high, the findings highlight the potentially high costs associated with using smartphones abroad... Data users should keep a look out for Wi-Fi spots where they can connect to the internet without using the local 3G network."

The company's survey comes shortly before the European Commission unveils new proposals for driving down data-roaming charges within the EU. As ZDNet UK reported in May, these proposals will probably include caps on the retail price operators can charge for data-roaming services, as well as more structural changes that will force operators to give their customers a competitive market while travelling.

Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said there was a "strong case" for new consumer protection laws around the world, as most people find it much too expensive to use the mobile internet while travelling abroad.

ZDNet UK's own research has found that, while data-roaming charges can be as high as £10 per megabyte, the actual cost of providing such services is only 1p to 3p per megabyte. Operators tend to charge customers less when megabytes are bought in a bundle, but, as Carphone Warehouse's research has demonstrated, most people do not activate such bundles.

Sign ZDNet UK's petition for fair data-roaming charges.

Editorial standards