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Action to tackle 'confusing' roaming policies welcomed by Martin Lewis after MSE campaign – though support won't be in place this summer

Mobile providers will be forced to send mandatory roaming alerts to travellers under new plans outlined by telecoms regulator Ofcom today. has repeatedly called for consumers' roaming rights to be increased after protections ended following Brexit – and we now want to see these new rules brought in as quickly as possible.

Previously, EU rules meant holidaymakers were better protected when roaming, but these came to an end in June 2022. Since then, most mobile operators have reintroduced roaming charges, but protections, including spending caps to prevent bill shock, have become voluntary.  

See our Cheap mobile and data roaming guide for how to cut costs when using your phone on holiday.

Martin: 'It's good to see these new proposals – but some confusing and opaque roaming policies are still in place and need to be dealt with by next summer'

Martin Lewis, founder of, said: "What do you think counts as 'a day' when you pay for a day's roaming?

A) 24 hours from first use.
B) Until 11.59pm UK time.
C) Until 11.59pm in the capital of the country you're calling.

"The current answer is: it can be any of them. Different networks do it differently. And worse, most firms don't tell you which definition they're using in the notification text you get when they charge you. So start using your phone at 11.56pm and you may pay the day's fee for just a few minutes' use. 

"This, as well as hidden fair usage policies that cap your data, is a clear example of the possibly deliberately confusing and opaque roaming policies of firms that MoneySavingExpert has long been campaigning about.

"We’re happy to see proposals from Ofcom to improve things, though it’s frustrating we’ve yet another summer for mobile operators to take advantage of people’s holidays. Let’s hope it’ll be better this time next year."

Roaming rights could be increased under new plans

Following research submitted by and other consumer groups (see below for more on this), Ofcom has agreed that mobile networks could do more to make roaming alerts to customers "clear, comprehensible and accurate". It wants providers to:

  • Send personalised roaming alerts so you know what your exact allowances are and when you can use them. Most providers already send general alerts but Ofcom wants these to become mandatory and for them to include more detail, specifying any fair use data limits and the time period that applies to any daily charges, as well as information on how to monitor, reduce and limit roaming spending. The messages should also include help on accessing "clear" information on roaming, as well as any mobile bill limit the customer has in place.

  • Protect consumers from roaming without realising it when they're near borders. This can be particularly problematic in some areas of Northern Ireland, for example, where people may unwittingly stray into another country's mobile network despite not physically being in that country. 

    Ofcom wants mobile providers to give users clear information about how to avoid this so-called "inadvertent roaming", both when in the UK and abroad; and to have measures in place to enable customers to reduce and/or limit their spend on roaming while in the UK. These measures could include offering special tariffs or treating mobile usage in Ireland the same as being in the UK, which Ofcom says some providers are already doing.

An Ofcom spokesperson told us: “Millions of UK holidaymakers head abroad every year and want to stay connected on their travels. But without clear information from their provider, they could find themselves facing an unexpected bill for calling home or going online. These alerts would mean whichever mobile provider you’re with, you won’t be left in the dark about roaming charges and action you can take to manage your spending.”

MoneySavingExpert has been campaigning for stronger roaming protections

With the introduction of daily roaming charges by some networks, our Roaming Risk report highlighted how networks were not always upfront about how they defined this fee, and we called on Ofcom to restore key protections that have since lapsed.

Earlier this year, we re-iterated these calls to Ofcom, and asked it to look at how roaming charges are communicated to consumers.

More recently, our investigation into 'fair use' limits found that most networks limit how much data you can use abroad and that several providers weren't making this clear when you sign up or in the text message customers receive when they arrive at a roaming destination. 

Ofcom's own research found that almost one in five holidaymakers were unaware they could face extra charges when using their mobile abroad. 

These are still proposals though, so make sure to protect yourself now

Ofcom is now consulting with networks, consumer groups and other interested parties on its proposed changes. Its consultation closes on 28 September 2023 and Ofcom says it plans to publish its findings in early 2024.

This leaves many consumers unprotected for now, but there are steps you can take to help prevent unexpected roaming bills:

Before you go away:  

  • Set a data use cap. Android users can do this in their phone's setting (see below). iPhone users can't do this in their phone's settings. However, you can ask your mobile provider to set a spend cap.

  • Check how much data you have to use. If your network has an app (most do) you should also log in to check how much data you have left. It won't tell you how much roaming data you've used once overseas though.
Once away: 
  • Only use Wi-Fi. If you're worried about exceeding your allowance abroad, the easiest thing is to turn roaming off completely and rely on local Wi-Fi networks, for example those potentially offered by your hotel. See our quick roaming tips for more.

  • If you need roaming, turn on your handset's low data or data saving modes. If your roaming is switched on, it'll naturally use data in the background, even if you're not using your phone. Low data or data saving modes help stop or limit background data use, but you have to turn it on in your settings. The process varies depending on if you're using an iPhone or Android, but we've instructions on this below.

  • Check your roaming usage using your phone's settings. You can also use your phone's settings to check your data use - and this will work while you're overseas. The process varies depending on if you're using an iPhone or Android, but we've instructions on how to turn it on for both below. Some networks will also voluntarily automatically text you once you've used 80% of your data allowance and then again at 100% of your allowance. 
  • Using an Android

    • Turn on low data mode. Navigate to 'Settings' and then 'Network & internet' and then 'Data Saver'. You can then toggle this on or off.

    • Check your data allowance. Navigate to 'Settings' and then 'Connections' and then to 'Data usage'. Here you can also set your own data limit, so you get a warning if you're nearing it. Within 'Mobile data usage', you can see how much data you've used for a certain period.

  • Using an iPhone

    • Turn on low data mode. Navigate to 'Settings' and then select 'Mobile Data'. Select 'Mobile Data Options' and then select 'Data Mode'. Here you can select 'Low Data Mode'.    

    • Check your roaming data allowance. Navigate to 'Settings' and then 'Mobile Data'. You'll then see a section called 'Current Period Roaming'. This will be the total amount you've used while not connected to a Wi-Fi network abroad. You can't set alerts, so you'll have to manually check this yourself.

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