Welcome to France? Kent villagers hit by data 'roaming' charges after phones connect to French mobile networks

Locals told to switch off the data roaming option on their phones to avoid costly charges
  • @johnmatthewhall

Residents of a village in Kent have been hit by data ‘roaming’ charges after their mobile phones connected to French networks.

Locals and visitors to the village of St Margaret’s at Cliffe were warned to switch off the data roaming feature on their mobile phones in order to avoid incurring surcharges, as atmospheric conditions can cause phones in the area to connect to French networks such as Orange F and SFR.

Locals apparently often receive ‘Welcome to France’ messages, as UK signals in St Margaret’s Bay regularly get blocked by the nearby White Cliffs of Dover.

Speaking to the BBC, Nigel Wydymus, landlord of the Coastguard pub and restaurant next to the beach, said: “We are a little telecommunications enclave of France here… It did not cause a huge amount of trouble for a few years with mobile phones because you got a message saying welcome to France, but since smartphones have come in it's more of a problem.”

Mr Wydmus reportedly added: “Obviously people strolling along the beach in England do not expect to be on a French network and so, unlike when they get off the plane in Spain or elsewhere, they haven't switched off their data roaming and it causes some extra bills.”

Although locals are currently treating the error with good humour, they may not be quite so amused when next month’s mobile bills arrive in the post.

Calls from a French network can be up to four times more expensive than the cost from a UK network, while friends and family calling those with phones accidentally connected to a French network care also likely to see their bills rocketing.

A spokesman from EE, which covers the T-Mobile and Orange networks, is reported as saying: ”We always recommend our customers switch off roaming while they are in this little pocket of an area to ensure that they are connecting to the correct network, because we cannot control the networks from the other side of the water.“