Be Aware of Unexpected Mobile Data Charges While Roaming Overseas

Nowadays more and more consumers use mobile data roaming service when traveling abroad. As roaming charges are much higher than domestic rates, consumers may incur exorbitant data roaming charges as a result of an inadvertent use of the data roaming service

Rijeka, Croatia

Holidaymakers should be wary of their use of mobile data roaming services while travelling abroad to avoid expensive bills because charges for mobile data roaming services are much higher than those for local mobile services.

General Advice for roaming charges

  • Before you leave your country, check your mobile operator’s website or contact their customer service centre to obtain information on –
    1. the availability of mobile data service in the destination;
    2. the roaming partners available in the destination
      • as different roaming partners may impose different service charges, you may choose the network(s) which best suit(s) your need
      • please make sure that you are always logged onto the network(s) that you have chosen, otherwise additional charges may be incurred;
    3. charging method and associated charges
      • whether mobile data roaming services are charged on a monthly, daily or consumption basis
  • Switch off the automatic functions for updating apps / software, playing video clippings on social networking platforms, retrieving emails, fetching Really Simple Syndication (“RSS”) or Podcast before departing in order to avoid unnecessary mobile data service charges.
  • You may also consider replacing your mobile phone SIM card with a prepaid SIM card that can be used at the destination for data services. This will help cap the data service charges within the value of the prepaid SIM card.
  • In some circumstances, such as upon entry into a country, you may receive notifications generated by individual mobile applications or greeting and promotional messages from your destination roaming operator or your home mobile operator. Some of these messages may provide instructions that guide you to select their suggested services. You should be alerted to such instructions or hyperlinks as once triggered, they would activate the mobile data connection and thus incur for you unexpected data roaming charges

Roaming Charges – capped Data Usage Service Plan

Some mobile operators are providing customers with a day pass i.e. a flat-rate data roaming daily plan  for data usage in certain destinations. You should take note that most of these charge-capped data usage packages (or discount rates) are only applicable to designated destination(s) and/or network(s).

Thus, you should ensure that the day pass purchased applies to the destination and you are always logged onto the designated network(s) in the destination. Otherwise, regular data roaming charges which are at a much higher level will be incurred.

Furthermore, if your handset is configured to “automatic” network selection, you may encounter the problem of “network switching”. This will occur when the signals of the connected network has become weakened. Your handset will then be connected to other non-designated network which has stronger signals. To avoid additional data roaming charges arising from such “network switching”, you should configure your handset to manual network selection so that the connection will be confined only to the designated network(s). The manual network selection procedures may vary with different handset models. In general, you may follow the steps below –

  1. Go to the “Setting” menu;
  2. Select the “Operator” or “Network” sub-menu;
  3. Choose ‘Manual Network’ selection to select your designated network;
  4. Save the designated network selection in your mobile phone; and
  5. Ensure that you have successfully logged onto your designated network.

If you choose to use a day pass, you should beware of the service activation and cut-off time, and any other terms of use that are applicable to the pass. In general, the service will be activated only after confirmation has been made by the customers via a short message upon arrival at the destination. You therefore need to clarify with your mobile operators beforehand whether the service will be activated immediately or after a lapse of time upon making the confirmation.

The definition of “a day” may also vary. “A day” may be counted based on the local time or that of the destination. The daily charges may also be counted on per destination basis. For example, if you use mobile data service in the United Kingdom in the morning, then you travel to France in the afternoon, you will be charged twice for traveling in the two countries in the same day. Besides, some day passes may have restrictions on the type of data usage. For example, unlimited data usage may only be applicable to particular messaging application while a low data volume is imposed for general usage via other applications. Any extra usage beyond the limit of the general usage will incur data roaming charges. To avoid unnecessary disputes, consumers must clarify with their mobile operators how the charges are calculated.

In general, in order to avoid unnecessary financial loss and billing disputes, you should carefully enquire about the service details and charging scheme, and read the service terms and conditions before subscribing to mobile data roaming services.

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