Case Study: Roaming Charge

Ombudsman Services | Last updated Sep 01, 2021

The Consumer received a bill showing ‘out-of-bundle’ charges for data usage while travelling within the EU. They contacted their Supplier to query the charges as they understood that they were able to use their inclusive allowances within the EU. The Supplier advised the Consumer that they had changed their terms and conditions and this was no longer the case. The Consumer disputed the change in terms and conditions and contacted Ombudsman Services (OS) to raise a dispute.

The Supplier responded to the dispute, advising that following the UK leaving the EU, it had taken the decision to reintroduce roaming charges. The Supplier demonstrated that it had advised the Consumer of its intentions to change the terms and conditions of the Consumers contract to reflect this. The communication to the Consumer acknowledged that this represented a significant change to the contract. It informed the Consumer of their right to cancel the contract at that point. The Consumer had been sent a text message, an online account notification and an email to explain that they would be charged for roaming whilst travelling within the EU.

There was no evidence that the Consumer contacted the Supplier to exercise their right to cancel, therefore the contract terms and conditions changed in line with the notice given. Ombudsman Services considered that the Supplier had notified the Consumer of the change in terms and conditions and that the Consumer had accepted these by not exercising their right to cancel.

We noted that the Consumers roaming charges totaled £100 within one billing period which didn’t align with industry regulations that a cap of £45 should be applied to an account unless by prior agreement with the Consumer (which was not the case). The same regulations also require notifications to be sent to consumers when they have reached 80% and 100% of this cap. The Supplier was unable to demonstrate that they had issued these notifications to the Consumer.

Ombudsman Services provided a resolution to the dispute based on the supporting information provided by both the Consumer and the Supplier, and in reflection of the regulations set out by OFCOM which was:

First issue – Roaming charges for travel within the EU We were satisfied that the Supplier made reasonable attempts to notify the Consumer of the changes. Therefore, this part of the complaint was not upheld.

Secondary issue – Lack of notification for data usage Suppliers are required to send a notification to the Consumer once their data usage reaches 80%. They are also required to stop charging for data at 100% unless the Consumer agrees to continue using the services. There is also a cap of £45 per month (excluding VAT) on all data charges regardless of where the Consumer travels.

In this instance, the Consumers roaming usage was all data within the EU, however the Supplier failed to send the relevant notifications resulting in the Consumer being charged significantly more than £45 for their usage. As a result, we required the Supplier to apply a credit to the Consumers account to cover the difference between the charges and the capped amount.