Taking your phone on holiday can be a 'rip off' according to mobile network Three / Getty Images

Europe-wide free roaming starts on 15 June

A month ahead of mobile roaming charges being scrapped across Europe, a leading network has branded its rivals’ fees outside the EU “a rip off”.

Announcing an extension of its free roaming deal, Three said: "Roaming charges are a rip off."

Holidaymakers in the US, Turkey, and many other non-EU nations face charges of £1.50 per minute on some networks. Even in European destinations such as Albania - increasingly popular as a day-trip from Corfu and as a port on Adriatic cruises - a call from home lasting five minutes can cost the recipient £7.50.

Rates for using data abroad can also be extremely high. Critics say the telecom firms are levying charges that are way out of line with the actual cost of providing the service, and that international travellers are seen as a rich source of revenue

The European Commission started capping intra-EU roaming charges a decade ago. Fees for calls made or received anywhere in the 30 other EEA countries (the European Union plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are down to a few cents or less per minute on top of the domestic contract. The most a network can add for online access is €0.05 per megabyte. 

Completely free roaming should prevail across Europe from 15 June. From the same date, the mobile network Three will extend the range of countries where it levies no roaming charges, adding Singapore, Brazil and five French-speaking Caribbean territories: Guyane, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin.

They join the US, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Israel among the non-European nations already included in the “Feel at Home” scheme. The firm says that its free roaming deal covers 82 per cent of trips made by British holidaymakers. But users in Turkey, Thailand, South Africa and dozens of other popular destinations still incur roaming fees.

Dave Dyson, chief executive at Three, said: “We are doing this proactively for the benefit of our customers and not because regulators are forcing us to do it.” He said the network is “moving quickly” towards a goal of covering all overseas destinations.

Outside Europe, the only legal restriction is on data prices. Under EU rules the volume of downloaded data on a mobile device is capped, worldwide, at €50, unless the user has agreed to a different limit with their mobile network.

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