Travellers face huge costs when using their phone abroad

Many of us will have returned from the holiday of a lifetime only to be brought crashing back down to earth when our next phone bill lands on the doormat.

The fact is, unless you know what you are doing, using your mobile in a foreign country is an extremely expensive business.

Having saved up for so long, the last thing you want to do is spend all of your overseas travel money on phone calls, text messages or data roaming.

In order to use your phone cheaply, you must "unlock" your handset before inserting an international SIM card.

Simple enough, right?

Well, the average cost of unlocking a phone before using it in a foreign country can range from $150 for Telstra customers, $120 for Optus users, $100 for Vodafone and $80 for Virgin, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) reports.

The organisation believes these fees are unfair, as people who have already bought their phone in good faith are essentially having to pay twice to use it.

"We think industry could help solve the problem of high global roaming bills by getting rid of handset unlocking fees, especially for pre-paid customers who have already paid for their handset," commented ACCAN spokeswoman Elise Davidson.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman recently revealed that five per cent of complaints received from mobile customers are related to bills of more than $5,000 following a trip abroad – it really is eye-watering stuff.

"We've seen bills from anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $50,000 and many people just cannot afford to pay them," Ms Davidson added.

Clearly, Aussies need to be very careful when travelling overseas and it is a good idea to avoid downloading anything on your handset unless you can find a reliable Wi-Fi connection.

It will be interesting to see if the unlocking charges are eventually scrapped and this would not only give Aussies peace of mind, but will also enable them to spend more of their hard-earned cash on enjoying their holiday.

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