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How can BT Mobile still get away with charging £150 per GB of roaming data?

Roaming data
Roaming rip-off: travelling in the States is an expensive business on BT Mobile

You might have thought the days of rip-off roaming data were over. Yet, there are still some operators determined to pummel customers who travel abroad.

I’m off to Las Vegas for CES next month, and so this week decided to check how much data would cost me on my new mobile network, BT Mobile. Last year, I got all my calls, texts and data for free courtesy of Three’s Feel at Home plan, which allows you to use your contracted allowance in 71 countries worldwide, including the States.

BT has something similar, called Roam Like Home, except its scope is more limited, restricted to 47 destinations – the vast majority of which are in the Europe, where networks are now banned from imposing rip-off roaming data charges by EU regulations (think on Brexit fans).

Instead, BT Mobile sells roaming add-ons for the USA. The price? £15 for 100MB. That’s £15 to, say, stream about five minutes of Netflix or listen to three or four albums on Spotify. Last year on my week in Vegas, I used just over a gigabyte of data (Three sent me a text message cheerfully telling me how much I’d saved). If I did the same again on BT’s tariff, I’d be looking at a bill of around £150.

The BT-owned EE is better. It charges pay-monthly customers £4.80 per day for up to 500MB of data per day, so that you can use your phone abroad “just like you do at home”. Except, of course, a week away would cost you the thick end of £35 – the same as most people’s monthly tariff.

So how can the same company charge one set of customers £150 for 1GB of data and another set £9.60 for the same amount? Especially when there are networks such as Three that don’t charge any extra at all. It’s a monstrous rip-off and BT should be in the dock for it.

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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  • I totally agree about BT Mobile charges and everything stated in your article. We just visited Louisiana and the add on data hardly lasted a few days. We were charged astronomical amounts for phone calls too, there wasn’t even an add on option for them. We couldn’t send text messages either, we’re not sure why, just kept saying ‘failed’. We used Wi-Fi when we could but it wasn’t always possible. They kept suggesting more data add ons but we couldn’t get online to buy any! When we dared switch on our mobile data (out of desperation) to book an Uber our bill shot up! Our family plan mobile bill is £120 more this month (for two of us), BT also informed us that we have the same charges on next month’s bill too. We will be going back to Three as soon as we can. We used our mobiles, with Three, in Texas, California & Hawaii and saved an unbelievable amount of money. We had our data roaming on the whole time, made phone calls and sent text messages and they were included in our plan. There were no network problems either; sometimes my calls drop with BT and the connection is slower. We only changed networks because they promised us a better tariff than Three because we have BT for our internet, landline and tv. Yes, it is a monstrous rip-off, and yes, they should be in the dock!

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