Mobile phone companies are hitting customers with up to £200 in unexpected charges when they phone friends and family visiting from abroad, according to a study.
The report by telecoms firms Lebara reveals that one in ten UK households will host visitors from abroad during the Olympic Games alone. They could fall victim to charges of more than £1.50 per minute to call their mobile phones.
Mobile phones were revealed as the most common way to keep in touch with guests, with 26 million phone calls expected to be made to overseas visitors over the course of the Games.
When questioned, less than 2 per cent were aware that calls made to visiting friends and family will be charged at the standard international rate – the same as calling their mobile abroad.
Shockingly, four out of ten people believe they will be paying less than 10p a minute for the calls.
In actual fact, the charges will leave Brits with bills of up to £200 for just three weeks – more than eight times the average monthly phone bill.
This could means families across the UK could face an additional £20 million in charges this summer.
Rajesh Dongre, COO of Lebara, said: ‘People don’t realise that even though their guests are in the UK and probably in very close proximity to them they are actually paying the same as if they were on the other side of the world.
‘Millions of Brits around the UK are going to incur the costs of generously hosting guests during the games so the last thing they or their guests need is the legacy of a big phone bill at the end of it.’
Lebara’s research revealed more North Americans are heading to the UK than any other nationality, but Brits hosting these visitors are likely to be hit worst by the charges, with calls to handsets on US networks costing just over £1 per minute on average – nearly 12 times the average UK mobile phone rate of 8.5p(5).
Other sports fans coming to the UK include those from France, Romania, Spain and Poland, for which the average standard overseas call charge is 98p per minute(6), but the study found that even those with friends and family closer to home will be stung by higher call charges.
The study was commissioned by Lebara to mark the launch of its Family and Tourist SIM packs, which allow free calls between UK Lebara users and low rate calls to overseas numbers, including mobiles, cutting down on the high costs.
The guests themselves also face big bills when they call home to celebrate medal success; Lebara’s report found that around 20% of people intend to make calls during and after the biggest sporting events, while more than a third (35%) would send a text.
Using a Lebara SIM card, standard rates for calls to the USA are 6p per minute to a landline or mobile, while charges for calling any phone in India are just 1p per minute.
Calls to Romanian or Polish mobiles are charged at 10p a minute (and 2p and 1p respectively for landlines) while all international text messages cost 12p to send.
Lebara also offers low rates for national calls and calling dozens of other countries around the world, including China, Nigeria, Australia and Pakistan.
Lebara Mobile Family and Tourist SIM packs are available at branches of Phones4U and selected retailers nationwide.