Avoid expensive bills when using your smartphone this summer

10/06/2011

The holidays are approaching which means that many of us will be travelling abroad. The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (PTS), Swedish Consumer Agency and Swedish Consumer Bureau for Telecom, TV and Internet (KTIB) have listed some suggestions to help consumers avoid the high cost of using mobile services abroad. Now that more people have smartphones, it is even more important to be aware of the risks.

Mobile surfing abroad using your Swedish subscription can be much more expensive than the cost of using this service in Sweden. A fixed charge for data traffic is often restricted to only apply to surfing in Sweden. When surfing abroad, it may cost hundreds of Swedish kronor just to surf on, for example, the website of a daily newspaper and it is significantly more expensive to stream music or use online games.

A smartphone is like a computer. Surfing is easy and fast broadband means that you can quickly use a large amount of data. Applications (‘Apps’) that automatically update can be costly. It is therefore important to find out about prices and conditions from your operator and to be aware of the settings that you need to make on your phone to avoid high costs.

Block within the EU

In the EU there is a block that is automatically applied if your surfing costs reach around SEK 650. This limit can be quickly achieved, as mobile surfing abroad is so expensive. You will have to notify your operator if you want to be able to surf over and above this amount. However, please note that you may incur extremely high costs if you remove the block.

“This credit block only applies within the EU*. Remember that not all countries in Europe are part of the EU. Blocks are not a requirement outside the EU and here high costs may come as a shock when you get your bill. Always contact your operator prior to making a trip to check the prices and conditions in the country to which you are travelling,” says Anna Boström, who is Head of Section at PTS.

“Also be careful when you are close to Sweden’s borders with other countries, as your equipment may connect you to a neighbouring country’s network despite the fact that you are in Sweden. This is because radio signals go over national boundaries. You should also be careful onboard vessels where satellite telephony is occasionally used, as this can quickly become expensive,” says Mattias Grafström, CEO at KTIB.

Please note that all kinds of mobile surfing abroad may quickly incur high costs. In other words, this applies not only to smartphones, but also when you are using computers, tablets or older mobile phones.

Suggestions for avoiding high surfing costs abroad:

  • Always contact your operator prior to making your trip to check applicable prices and conditions in the country to which you are travelling.
  • Remember that services and applications in your equipment may automatically use data traffic (e.g. email) without you being aware of this, so avoid high costs by turning these off before travelling. Disable the option of connecting to a foreign operator (‘roaming’) if you have not checked the cost of this with your operator.
  • “A good alternative is to use local networks, which are occasionally free, for example in hotels and cafes in the country to which you are travelling. Be careful to check that the network you are using is free. If your equipment is not locked to a certain operator, you can also use a local prepaid card (so called top-up cards),” says Marek Andersson, a lawyer at the Swedish Consumer Agency.

Read more on these tips and others at KTIB:s website (only in Swedish)

Read more about the rules within the EU at PTS's website (only in Swedish)

*Also in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

For more information, please contact:
Anna Boström, head of Consumer Issues, PTS, tel. 073-644 55 23
Marek Andersson, lawyer, Swedish Consumer Agency, tel. 054-19 40 68
Mattias Grafström, CEO, KTIB, tel. 070-713 48 50
Andreas Evestedt, communications officer, KTIB, tel. 070-713 48 59