Operators are facing heavy criticism from Consumer Focus over roaming charges in the run up to the World Cup.
The consumer watchdog has compiled figures comparing the different charges for consumers travelling to South Africa and using their phones while abroad.
Consumer Focus has highlighted the discrepancy in prices between the operators for customers calling and using mobile internet when outside the EU.
Mobile internet has been highlighted as one of the areas where customers could suffer from bill shock. Prices range from £1.25 to £8 per MB. At the top end of the price range, a customer could be charged up to £80 to upload 10 photos to Facebook.
Vodafone has been singled out as having the best World Cup call rates. The Vodafone ‘Passport’ scheme, which has been extended to South Africa during June and July, offers calls at the usual UK rate, but with an extra 75p connection charge.
Vodafone Passport also offers the best value texts, at 11p each, followed by Virgin Mobile, at 25p per text for pay monthly customers. T-Mobile’s free ‘World Class’ scheme offers calls to the UK for 55p per minute for customers roaming on the MTN network in South Africa.
A Vodafone spokesman said: 'It's great to see that Consumer Focus have recognised Vodafone as offering the
best value for people travelling to South Africa for the World Cup. Our
Passport offer has been the best value in the market for a number of years, and
we continue to offer customers a great deal abroad. Fans still have plenty of
time to sign-up to the UK's best network to take advantage of our market
leading pricing - whether at home or abroad
3 has also just announced a new set of data tariffs for World Cup fans travelling to South Africa in June and July. Customers on the network will be able to use mobile internet on their smartphones and dongles for £1.25 per MB – more than a 50% price cut.
As well as cutting the price of mobile internet, 3 has slashed voice roaming charges by 30%.
3 sales and marketing director, Marc Allera, said: ‘Smartphones mean that data roaming is now mainstream, but some operator’s data roaming prices are still eye-wateringly high. That’s why we have decided to reduce the cost of doing this for UK fans travelling to South Africa for the World Cup, especially around data roaming prices.’
Meanwhile, the Consumer Focus research shows that the operators charging the most for making calls from South Africa are Virgin, T-Mobile and Orange. The highest data charges come from Orange and Tesco, followed by T-Mobile.
Consumer Focus telecommunications expert, Nick Hutton, said: ‘England fans need to be on the ball to make sure they don’t get caught out by hundreds of pounds of hidden mobile phone costs at the World Cup. We want to see mobile phone firms play fair by customers travelling abroad and cut these extremely high fees. In the meantime consumers should check their network rates before they fly and look into the add-ons or bundles on offer, which could save them much needed cash.’
The real cost of the World Cup
Consumer Focus calculated costs for an English mobile phone user in South Africa on a realistic match day scenario. The scenario used is as follows: Phoning home in the morning to speak to partner / kids – 5 mins, calling a friend in to arrange where to meet before the game – 3 mins, 6 texts during the game, a call home to bemoan a 4-3 loss or celebrate a Rooney hat trick – 7 mins, uploading 10 pictures to the On Tour with England blog site, calling to say goodnight to partner / kids - 2 mins.
O2 £76.25 (contract)
Tesco Mobile £97.53
Virgin Mobile £68.50 (contract)
Vodafone £30.69 (contract)