EE, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile customers travelling outside the European Economic Area (EEA) are being charged when someone leaves them a voicemail even if they choose not to listen to it.

Since July 2010, EU regulations have banned networks from charging customers for incoming calls redirected to voicemail when travelling outside their home country but within the EEA.

However, outside Europe networks are free to charge what they like for roaming services. (See our Mobile Roaming and Data Roaming guides for more details on using your phone abroad.)

If you're a customer of any of the above networks and someone calls you when you're outside Europe and is diverted to voicemail, you'll be charged roaming rates if they leave a message, and in some cases even if they don't.

This has provided a rather nasty shock for some MoneySavers. Emma Speller from Milton Keynes emailed us about her experience: "I have just come back from Tunisia to £70 of unnecessary charges on my EE phone bill. During the week I was away I had 14 calls, none of which I answered – they all automatically went to my voicemail, which I also did not check.

"It seems phone companies now think it is acceptable to charge £2.50 for each call made to your number, followed by £2.50 for each call which reaches your voicemail."

Martin Lewis
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How much will I be charged (outside the EEA only)?

  • EE/Orange/T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile customers: You'll incur two separate roaming charges per voicemail left – the per-minute rate for receiving calls as the call is connected to your handset abroad; and the outgoing per-minute rate to divert the call to your voicemail inbox back in the UK.
  • Tesco Mobile customers: You'll be charged the per-minute rate for the cost of a call back to the UK from the country you're travelling in for every minute of the voicemail left.

The exact rate will depend on the country you're in at the time. For example, EE customers in the US will pay £2 for every minute of the voicemail – £1/min apiece for the incoming and outgoing rate.

See EE's roaming page, and the Virgin and Tesco websites for the full list of rates. The 'voicemail' rates listed are typically the cost to retrieve voicemails, not be left a voicemail – you'll need to check the roaming rates for incoming and outgoing calls.

How can I avoid being charged?

To prevent being charged for voicemails left, the networks recommend turning off voicemail for the period of your trip. To do this:

  • EE and T-Mobile customers: While within the EU, call customer services on 150 from your mobile. This is free for pay monthly customers and 25p per call for pay-as-you-go customers. Outside of the EU, EE customers should call +44 7953 966 250 and T-Mobile customers +44 7953 966 150; you'll pay standard roaming rates for this.
  • Orange customers: While within the EU, call customer services on 150 from your mobile. This is free for pay monthly customers and 25p per call for pay-as-you-go customers (automated service is free). Outside of the EU, pay monthly customers call +44 7973 100 150 and pay-as-you-go customers customers call +44 7973 100 450; you'll pay standard roaming rates for this.
  • Virgin Mobile customers: Call customer services on 789 free from your mobile while in the UK. Pay monthly customers call +447953 967 967 while abroad, for which you'll be charged standard roaming rates; pay-as-you-go customers pay a flat rate of £2 per call when outside the UK.
  • Tesco Mobile customers: Call 2915 from your mobile. This is free whether you're in the UK or abroad.

EE and Orange customers can leave a "temporary greeting" telling callers they aren’t accepting voicemails and therefore stopping messages being left.

Tesco Mobile says its customers won’t be charged for voicemails unless the caller actually leaves a message, so if you don’t want to disable voicemail entirely you could re-record your greeting to say you’re away and ask the caller not to leave a message, although there’s always the risk they still might.

Virgin Mobile customers are charged as soon as a call connects to voicemail so changing your recording to tell callers not to leave messages won't help; you'll need to disable voicemail entirely to avoid charges.

What if I'm on another network?

GiffGaff, O2, Three and Vodafone will only charge you if you choose to listen to the message by calling your voicemail inbox while abroad. EE, Orange, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile also charge for this on top of the fee for someone leaving you a voicemail.

See our Mobile Roaming guide for more info on these costs.