New research highlights the importance of key mobile roaming protections for Northern Ireland consumers

New research published today by the Consumer Council investigates the issues that Northern Ireland (NI) consumers are experiencing as a result of the reintroduction of mobile roaming charges.


The publication of ‘Mobile Roaming Experiences of Northern Ireland Consumers’ is timely as we head into the summer holiday season. The Consumer Council is using the publication of the new report as an opportunity to remind consumers of the importance of taking action before roaming abroad so they don’t incur additional costs.

The research, which took place earlier this year, focused on the experiences of NI consumers who had travelled or experienced roaming while in Northern Ireland.

Some of the key findings included:

  • Almost half (48%) of respondents had travelled outside the United Kingdom (UK) in the last 12 months.
  • Around four in five (81%) had taken action to find out about mobile roaming before they had travelled outside the UK, with looking over their contracts (41%) the most likely course of action taken.
  • 9% of NI consumers received an unexpected charge when travelling outside the UK in the last 12 months.

When considering cross-border roaming experiences:

  • 28% of NI consumers had experienced inadvertent/unintended roaming, with 22% of this roaming taking place on the NI/ROI border.
  • 52% of respondents had at least one measure in place to protect them when roaming onto networks in the Republic of Ireland.

NI mobile phone users had high levels of awareness, usage and positive sentiment towards roaming alerts. However, many consumers did not know that these protections are no longer mandatory for mobile providers to offer.

When asked about the importance of mobile roaming protections:

  • Over nine in ten (91%) respondents were aware of mobile roaming alerts, with nearly three quarters (74%) also reading them.
  • 86% of respondents were influenced by the information in the roaming alerts they received, with using less data (45%), switching off data roaming (36%) and only using their phone when connected to Wi-Fi (32%) the most likely actions to have been taken. 

Anne-Marie Murphy, Director of Strategy and Emerging Markets at the Consumer Council, said:

“As we head into the holiday season, this research highlights the importance of taking action before you roam abroad to ensure you are covered and don’t incur additional costs.

“The majority of consumers followed roaming alerts and took action to ensure they didn’t get charged roaming fees. Despite this, 9% of Northern Ireland consumers received an unexpected charge when travelling outside the UK.

“Mobile roaming protections are of particular importance to Northern Ireland consumers who are much more likely to experience inadvertent/unintended roaming onto Republic of Ireland networks.

“This research demonstrates how these protections provide a safety net for many and we welcome that mobile providers have continued to apply these on a voluntary basis.

“At a time when one in ten (11%) consumers had struggled to pay their mobile phone bill in the last 12 months, we want to ensure consumers continue to be protected.

“We ask that mobile providers and the regulator Ofcom work to formalise these protections with a particular focus on Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances.

“We also have online advice for consumers on how to avoid unexpected roaming charges.”

The Consumer Council’s top tips to avoid unexpected roaming charges:

  1. Check for charges before travelling: The majority of mobile providers in Northern Ireland have reintroduced roaming charges to continental Europe. You should check to see if roaming charges apply under your current contract with your provider.
  2. Beware of inadvertent/unintended border roaming charges: The majority of mobile providers are currently waiving roaming charges between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. However, these are often subject to fair use policies, so it is important to keep an eye on your data usage if you’re frequently near the border.
  3. Ask about bundles: Multiple mobile providers are offering deals on bundles to roam abroad at cheaper rates. Check with your provider to see what is available to meet your needs.
  4. Turn off data roaming: Turning off mobile data and roaming is a guaranteed way of avoiding unexpected bills when travelling. Use free Wi-Fi where possible, this is usually offered in bars, hotels and restaurants.
  5. Download content before travelling: Use Wi-Fi to download large or must-have files before travelling, including music, movies or apps.
  6. Shop around frequently: You should always look around for the best deal that meets your needs. If you travel frequently, you may benefit from switching to a provider that offers free roaming.

The Consumer Council monitors changes to mobile roaming to keep consumers informed. For further information on mobile roaming, and to learn more about what mobile providers are charging, visit our webpage.


  • roaming
  • mobile
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