Warning over mobile phone charges

A local traveller who struggled to cover a phone bill of more than $3,500 after visiting the Middle East has issued a warning to others.

“My ticket to Dubai was cheaper than my bill,” said Mitra Johnston, who flew from Britain to the United Arab Emirates in May.

Another visitor to the same country received a bill in excess of $6,000.

The two contacted The Royal Gazette after Debbie Jones, who visited Abu Dhabi last month, was billed more than $1,500 and told that she could continue to receive charges up to 60 days after her return.

Ms Johnston said she had visited her phone company, Digicel, before travelling and paid to enable roaming on her personal and business phones.

She said she was never informed that her service provider had no roaming arrangement with the UAE.

“I told the company when and where I was travelling, and I paid before I left Bermuda,” she said.

“I paid $60 and when I got back my bill was ridiculous. They need to train their staff to explain this.”

Ms Johnston said her iPhone usage had been limited to wi-fi in her hotel for roughly one week.

A One Communications customer, who asked not to be named, said that in just a few days “my phone bill went from $500 to $6,000”.

Admitting that she was “not tech- savvy”, she added: “I went to London in November and set up a roaming plan while I was in the UK.

“I went to Abu Dhabi from November 19 to 28 and didn’t have roaming, which I understood. I just used wi-fi. But, apparently, even just turning my phone on, everything came through.

“I had my phone in my bag, and every cell tower I went by, companies were charging me different rates. Even though I had it on airline mode, the data was not turned off. That was not explained to me.”

She said that the company had agreed to deduct about $1,000 once she got home, but she now had a payment plan to cover her costs from travelling.

“I don’t even understand how they calculated it,” she said.

The Digicel spokeswoman said that the company’s roaming passes allowed low rates for the United States, Canada, the European Union and Cuba.

Roaming packages reduce the cost of roaming in certain countries, she said, but customers will still be charged for roaming abroad.

Phone users who remove their Sim cards were advised to travel with a Sim card remover, as replacement cards cost $25.

She added: “Roaming charges can take up to three months to come out on your Digicel bill.”

How to avoid charges

According to Digicel, postpaid customers aiming to avoid roaming fees or getting a roaming pass should remove the phone’s Sim card completely from the handset.

Once removed, the Sim card cannot connect to an international cellular provider.

This means your account will not accumulate any roaming charges.