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US visitors to EU warned over roaming costs

US visitors to EU warned over roaming costs

The EU is accused of leaving US visitors to Britain at the mercy of profit hungry mobile phone operators, which hit them with hefty five-figure mobile phone bills.

According to industry specialists Tep, mobile phone operators charge US travellers to the UK up to £11.70 per MB in roaming charges, making them a tidy 1800 per cent profit on data.

Mobile phones companies now make £19 billion annual profit from roaming charges or between 15 and 20 per cent of their revenue.

Yet the roaming situation looks set to become much worse.

With intra-European roaming revenues and growth under pressure due to EU regulation on roaming charges, European operators are expecting to maximize roaming revenues from international visitors: consumers the EU commission cannot protect.

This comes on the back of new figures from VisitBritain out this week that show a decrease in the number of US visitors to the UK.

In 2010 there were just under 2.7 million visits to the UK by US residents, but visitor numbers have been declining over the past decade, down from a peak of 4.1 million in 2000.

“Mobile phone operators are holding visitors to the UK hostage, making excessive profits out of the simple need to use their phones, and the EU does nothing to protect them,” said Tep managing director Tom Mendoza.

“Tourists want to use their smartphones to find restaurants and information about places to visit.

“Many simply want to keep in touch and share their experiences with friends and family at home via Twitter, Facebook or other social media, but are being charged more than the cost of their flight to do so.

“By allowing visitors to be charged such high costs makes travel to the UK unappealing.

“For the British tourist industry to turn around the decline in visitors, it has to take on these mobile phone giants and ensure tourists are charged local roaming rates like everyone else,” Mendoza added.