Avoid the shocks and save on mobile chat in Europe

If you're heading for Europe this summer you'll be pleased to hear that the cost of using your mobile phone has just come down. Under new EC regulations brought in on 1 July, the following limits now apply: Making a call in the EU - down to 32p per minute max; Receiving a call – down to 12.5p per minute max; Downloading wholesale data on a mobile or laptop - down from 82p to 65p per megabyte that is uploaded or downloaded; Receiving a voice mail message while roaming is now free, but you will still be charged for listening to it while abroad.

It's estimated that 22 million Brits will be taking their mobile phone abroad this year, but about two thirds won't bother to check the cost of calls beforehand . This is despite the many horror stories about people running up horrendous mobile phone bills while abroad; often it's data roaming that's caused the problem.

So it's clear that the key is to stay in control and to know exactly how your mobile phone charges will work while you're overseas. The good news is that one of the new controls the EC regulations have introduced aims to tackle the danger with data roaming. They've introduced a cap on the cost of automatic data roaming at a monthly amount of £41.50 (50 euros). After this you will be cut off, although you can agree a different limit with your network if you know you're going to need more. To help you out, you will now be sent a message when your roaming charges reach 80% of the cap.

As always, it pays to plan in advance and get everything organised before you leave the country. So here are a few tips to think about along with your packing:

If you're a pay as you go customer, top up before you go – it means you set a budget and it saves any hassle. Check how your tariff operates while you're abroad so you know exactly what you can afford. Then check to see if there is a better option, like a roaming package. According to price comparison site uSwitch.com, only 4 in every ten people bother to ask their provider for a roaming package even though huge savings can be made. If you have an unlocked phone, consider an international pay as you go SIM or buy a local SIM card when you arrive. Update your answer phone message to let people know that you're not responding to calls unless urgent, that way you won't receive any voicemail messages that aren't important. Or consider switching off your voicemail service altogether, so you're not tempted to listen. Finally, bear in mind that all the changes above only apply to EU countries and do not include VAT.

So, just a few more things to add to your holiday checklist, but they're worth checking out. Here's to a very happy holiday with, no phone bill shockers when you return.

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