The compulsory £45 cap on worldwide data roaming charges has now expired, leaving millions of Brits vulnerable to unexpected charges when using their phone abroad. Olivia Palamountain reports

Brits planning to use their mobiles abroad this summer take heed: the expiration of the £45 worldwide data roaming cap means consumers could be facing chunky unexpected charges when their monthly bill arrives.

A recent study by reveals that 83 per cent of UK adults, equivalent to 46 million people, are unaware that the compulsory £45 worldwide data roaming cap, which protected consumers from unexpected charges, is no longer in effect after Brexit.

Over the past year, Brits have incurred approximately £539 million in unexpected roaming costs, with roaming policies varying significantly across destinations, providers and plans.

Certain networks, such as Sky Mobile, giffgaff, O2 and Three, continue to voluntarily apply the worldwide cap, while others, such as Tesco Mobile, have removed it.

Even with data roaming caps still in place, they only cover data usage, leaving phone calls and texts unprotected.

For instance, Sky Mobile customers calling from the Maldives or Seychelles would face staggering charges of £8.64 per minute, resulting in approximately £130 for a 15-minute call.

Many customers rely on bolt-on services that offer their UK allowance abroad, but these are often restricted to popular travel destinations.

Using mobile internet outside the EU and other common holiday spots may require purchasing data add-ons with minimal allowances at exorbitant prices. For instance, EE charges a hefty £65.32 for a mere 50MB in countries such as Costa Rica, Ghana and Vietnam.

Uswitch mobile expert, Rehan Ali, advises travellers to be cautious and thoroughly research their plan before embarking on their trip. He says: “Anyone travelling abroad from the UK should be wary of potential shock costs, even if they think roaming is included in their tariff. These costs can sometimes be incredibly expensive, so it’s vital that customers research ahead of their trip and put measures in place to avoid a sky-high bill.

“The safest option is to manually apply a monthly spending cap before travelling for each account that will be used abroad. This is particularly important for children and teenagers with access to a phone, as one in 10 parents say their kids have been responsible for an unexpected roaming bill.

“Given how confusing these policies and plans can be, the key piece of advice for anyone looking to enjoy some time abroad this summer is to thoroughly research your plan ahead of time and speak to your provider to avoid any nasty shocks.”

USwitch’s Top Tips for reducing your bills abroad

  1. Download any maps, films and music before travelling to avoid data costs abroad. An hour of Google Maps will only eat up 5MB. However, streaming an HD movie for the same time will use about 2GB – 400 times as much.2. Set up your own spending cap with your provider to avoid any surprise bills. If you’re paying for a bundle to roam abroad, you may not have the same data allowances as you do in the UK. So check your provider’s fair usage policy to confirm exactly what you can use before you incur extra charges.3. Even receiving a voicemail abroad can cost you. If your provider charges for this, call them before you travel and get it switched off.

    4. Use hotel and café wifi connections whenever possible. You can also enable wifi calling or use services like Whatsapp to make audio calls without using your minutes. Make sure access points are secure before logging on and avoid activities like online banking on public networks.

    5. Flight mode is not just for when you’re up in the air, although it will stop you from connecting to other networks while flying across different countries. Activating it in destinations with high roaming fees can remind you to watch your usage and save you from unexpected costs.

    6. Consider buying a no-contract one-month SIM only deal that will cover you for your time away. Lebara, which runs off the Vodafone network, offers a 5GB monthly SIM only contract for £4.95, which comes with free roaming in the EU and India.

    7. Consider whether an eSIM, which means an embedded SIM card, could work out cheaper at your destination. An eSIM makes it much easier to switch mobile networks and avoid high roaming charges when travelling outside of the UK. Local eSIM bundles are typically cheaper than data roaming packages from the big four networks, or when paying per MB while abroad.