- A quarter of consumers (25%) have come home to an unexpectedly high phone bill after a trip overseas, with bills as high as €700
- EU ‘Roam like at Home’ rules are designed to protect mobile phone customers when abroad, but two-thirds (65%) of Irish consumers are in the dark about them
- At risk: Four in ten (39%) mistakenly believe these EU rules either apply to all phone use all over Europe, or will protect them anywhere overseas
- Almost four in ten (37%) leave roaming on while they’re away – just one in ten (14%) check overseas charges with their phone provider before travelling
- Switcher.ie advises consumers to “research before you roam” to avoid post-holiday bill shock.
Holiday season is well and truly upon us, but new research from Switcher.ie shows a lack of understanding of roaming charges and EU ‘Roam like at Home’ rules could leave some phone users facing significant mobile bills.
A quarter of Irish consumers (25%) admit they have come home to an unexpectedly high roaming bill in the past. For the majority (82%), these bills were less than €200, while 15% had bills between €200 and €500, and 3% ended up with a bill ranging from €550 to a whopping €700.
Despite this, 99% of holiday makers will take their phones on holiday with them this year, with four in ten (42%) saying they will use their phone the same amount or more than they would at home.
The EU’s ‘Roam like at Home’ rules, which were introduced last year, offer protection to those travelling within the EU. But as many as two-thirds of consumers (65%) is in the dark about these rules. Almost four in ten (39%) mistakenly believe that these rules either apply to all phone use all over Europe (not just within the EU) or will protect them anywhere overseas.
One in ten (9%) believe they can make calls and send texts like at home either in all of Europe or anywhere overseas, but that there may be a cap on data. Worryingly, two in ten (17%) either hasn’t heard about the rules at all, or has heard about them but doesn’t know any details.
In destinations like Asia, the US and Australia, charges for calls to home can be over €3 per minute, while sending a single text costs up to 75 cent, and accessing the internet via roaming costs between €5 and €10 per MB. When you consider that 1MB is only enough data to browse one website, it’s easy to see how costs could quickly add up for people travelling further afield this summer.
Despite this, just 14% say they have checked charges with their phone provider and will adjust their usage accordingly while travelling, and almost four in ten consumers (37%) will leave roaming on while they’re abroad, either because they don’t use their phone much, or because they believe they can use their phone the same way as at home where they’re going. However, others will make some changes to avoid being charged. A quarter (26%) say they’ll turn off roaming completely and only use WiFi, while a similar number (23%) will just turn on roaming sporadically to check social media and emails.
But, for the majority, the love affair with their mobile phones will continue throughout their vacation, with two-thirds (65%) saying they’ll be using online messaging services – like WhatsApp and Viber. At the same time, texting (63%), taking photos and videos (63%), phoning (46%), emailing (43%) and updating or checking social media (38%) will ensure phones are never far from our hands.
And, despite the potential expense, it seems our desire for content will still be strong, with one in five (20%) saying they’ll either download or stream music or video content while away.
Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of Switcher.ie, said: “If you’re one of the many Irish consumers heading away this summer, make sure you check charges for roaming before you jet off. A quick call to your network can help you to make informed choices about your mobile use while you’re away and avoid a nasty post-holiday bill.
“If you’re travelling outside the EU, this will be particularly important. Costs for data roaming further afield can be really high, but you can limit the damage by turning off roaming and sticking to WiFi. And, if you’re planning on calling home a lot, using online apps like WhatsApp or Skype over WiFi to do so could save you a packet. Some providers also offer special roaming bundles, which give you a set amount of calls, texts and data overseas, so they’re worth checking out.
“Meanwhile, if you’re travelling within the EU, make sure you understand what ‘Roam like at Home’ means for you. If you’re a talker or a texter, the rules should work out really well for you. However, if you’re a heavy data user, you’ll need to be careful about how you use your data in the EU to avoid excess charges – try downloading content over WiFi, rather than streaming, and turn off automatic updates for apps.”
For more information, visit Switcher.ie
For further information please contact:
Maeve McLaughlin, Switcher.ie on 01 517 5922/087 133 2526 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Images for use are available on Flickr here.
Notes to editors
Research was carried out for Switcher.ie by iReach Insights, involving 1,001 online interviews with Irish adults aged 18+years. The total sample is representative of the national population in Ireland.
 In response to the question: “Have you ever come back from holiday to find an unexpectedly high mobile phone bill due to roaming charges? Yes/No.”
 In response to the question: “(Anyone who has come back to an unexpectedly high mobile phone bills) How high was that mobile phone bill? Less than €50/ €51 – €75/ €76 – €100/ €101 – €150/ €151 – €200/ €201 – €250/ €251 – €300/ €301 – €350/ €351 – €400/ €401 – €450/ €451 – €500/ €501 – €550/ €551 – €600/ €601 – €650/ €651 – €700/ €701 – €750/ €751 – €800/ €800+”
 In response to the question: “‘Roam like at Home’ rules were introduced last year. Which of the following statements best describes your understanding of those rules? They mean I can use my phone within Europe like I would at home/ They mean I can use my phone within the EU like I would at home/ They mean I can use my phone while abroad like I would at home/ They mean I can use my texts and calls like at home while in Europe, but there may be a cap on data/ They mean I can use my texts and calls like at home while in EU, but there may be a cap on data/ They mean I can use my texts and calls like at home while I’m abroad, but there may be a cap on data/ I haven’t heard about these rules/ I’ve heard about these rules but I don’t know any details.”
 In response to the question: “In terms of mobile phone charges and fees, which of the following statements best applies to you? Please select only one. I’m worried about charges for using my phone overseas, so I will turn off roaming completely and only use WiFi/ I will turn off roaming on my phone and just turn it on sporadically to check social media and emails because I don’t want to incur any overseas charges/ I will not turn off roaming as I don’t use my phone much and don’t think I’ll face additional charges/ I won’t turn off roaming because where I am going I can use my phone the same way as I do at home/ I have checked all of the charges with my phone provider and will adjust my usage accordingly.”
 In response to the question: “You said you were planning to go abroad this year, which of the following statements best reflects how you will use your mobile phone? I will have lots to update and talk about on social media, so I’m likely to use my phone even more than usual/ I will use my phone just as much as I would if I was at home/ I will use the opportunity for a phone detox and only use it occasionally/ I’ll use it only in case of emergencies/ I won’t take my phone with me.”
 Roaming charges for Irish customers when travelling in the USA:
|Provider||Data||Making calls home||Receiving calls||Sending texts|
|eir Mobile||€10.24 / MB||€1.69 /min||€1.59 /min||39 cent each|
|Lycamobile||Not available||€3.04 /min||€2.99 / min||75 cent each|
|Tesco Mobile||€2.40 / MB||€2.08 /min||€2.08 /min||64 cent each|
|Three||€5.08 /MB||€1.78 /min||€1.01 /min||35.58 cent each|
|Virgin Mobile||€7.00 /MB||€1.99 /min||€0.99 /min||40 cent each|
|Vodafone||€6.15 /MB||€1.41 /min||€1.41 /min||30 cent each|
Vodafone also offers has a default roaming tariff called RED Roaming, which has a daily fee of €2.99 for unlimited calls, SMS and 200MB of data per day.
 In response to the question: “Which of the following will you use your phone for whilst abroad? Please select all that apply. Phoning/ Texting/ Emailing/ Messaging on services like WhatsApp/Viber/ Downloading music/video content/films/ Streaming music/video content/films/ Updating/checking up on social media/ Taking photographs/videoing/ Facetiming/video calls/ As an alarm clock/ Other.”
About the EU roaming rules
According to the European Commission’s Roaming Q&A, communications (phone calls, SMS, data) made from another EU country will be covered in your national bundle: the minutes, SMS and gigabytes of data that you consume abroad in the EU will be charged or deducted from the volumes of your national tariff plan exactly as if you were at home.
If at home you have unlimited calls and SMS, you will get unlimited calls and SMS when roaming in the EU. If your national mobile bundle includes unlimited data, your operator must provide you with a large volume of roam like at home data depending on the price of your mobile bundle. Your operator should clearly inform you of this roam like at home data allowance. If you use more data while roaming than your allowance, you may have to pay a small charge (a maximum of €6 per GB plus VAT in 2018, which will decline gradually to reach €2.50/GB as of 2022).
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