Consumers living in border areas of Northern Ireland often pay inflated bills simply because their mobile phone roams on to a Republic of Ireland (RoI) network. This expensive annoyance --known as inadvertent roaming -- can cost some users £300-plus a year in extra charges, according to watchdog Ofcom, which promised to raise the issue with operators.
Although it has taken some time for the regulator to report back, the good news is that there are now ways to avoid or reduce these charges.
Back in 2012 there were no useful options available.
Consumers had to pay up or adjust the settings on their phone to stop it from roaming onto a RoI network; but neither was satisfactory.
Now, though, Ofcom claims that's all changed and some UK operators have moved to introduce special tariffs that can significantly reduce the cost of roaming on to a RoI network. For instance, Vodafone recently halved the price of its Ireland Plus tariff to £5 a month.
Available to customers in Northern Ireland only, this allows you to roam into any RoI network using your UK inclusive minutes/text and data allowance.
Another operator, Three, has abolished roaming charges altogether for UK customers roaming onto an RoI network and vice versa.
It is worth noting that these tariffs not only help deal with the problem of inadvertent roaming, but will also provide savings for consumers who holiday or travel a lot in the Republic.
James Stinson from Ofcom says these and other initiatives are very welcome for consumers.
"If you regularly incur charges for inadvertent roaming, you should seek advice from your provider on how you could reduce these costs," he said.
"If you are nearing or have passed your minimum contract term, you might want to consider whether to switch your provider and to a deal that better suits all of your needs."
At a European level, there are moves to abolish roaming charges across the European Union, but that is some years away. unfortunately.
In the meantime, Ofcom has published a handy consumer leaflet on its website highlighting the different approaches operators are taking to tackle the problem of inadvertent roaming and what consumers can do to protect themselves.
You can find it in the 'Guides and Tools' section of its website at www.ofcom.org.uk.
Five ways... to save a few pounds:
More than half of Northern Ireland people are cutting back on heating, takeaways and clothes shopping, with the number worrying about making ends meet having risen for the first time in three years.
The personal cutbacks come as consumer confidence recorded its first drop since the last quarter of 2011.
A recent poll of 30,000 people by market research firm Neilsen found that 60% are seeking to reduce their electricity bills, 58% have cut back on expanding their wardrobes, 57% have cut out takeaways and 55% are switching to cheaper brands in the supermarket. Here are five simple ways to save cash — and it all starts with cutting back on needless waste.
1. BUDGET. Nip monthly overspending in the bud by drawing up a budget. Add up all the cash coming in and all the payments going out.
2. DON'T OVERHEAT. Use individual radiator controls rather than the thermostat. Don't cover radiators with furniture or curtains as this blocks a surprising amount of heat. Get your boiler serviced annually or replace the old model.
3. WASTE NOT. The average household throws away a staggering £18.57 of uneaten food very week. That amounts to nearly £1,000 a year, according to figures from Vouchercloud.com. Avoid this by checking your fridge and storage cupboards so that products don't pass their sell-by dates.
4. DON'T FRITTER. The average UK adult wastes £99 a month on takeaway meals, sandwiches at lunchtime, and nights out, a family finance expert at Standard Life said. Forgoing your daily latte, taking a packed lunch to work and going home after work rather than nipping to the pub could save hundred of pounds a year. Bigger steps, such as quitting smoking, will save you even more money.
5. AVOID HOARDING. Don't clutter your house with stuff you never use, turn it into extra cash instead. Almost one in three people in the UK now sell things on sites such as Gumtree and eBay, according to research from Standard Life.
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