Do you or your employees travel internationally for business and use a smartphone to work remotely?
Perhaps you take your work smartphone with you when holidaying abroad to keep in touch with the office?
For many modern businesses, ensuring colleagues can remain in contact when working or travelling outside of the UK, is an absolute necessity.
Although mobile roaming within the EU is cheaper than ever, there's still a risk of running up an unexpectedly higher bill, if you or your employees aren't careful.
Business travellers may also be vulnerable to 'bill-shock' when using their smartphones outside of the EU, where voice and data roaming charges can be significantly higher. Particularly if there's a need to dial into lengthy conference calls, or download large data files while on business trips abroad.
Here's some useful information to help ensure you or your employees don't cause the company a financial headache when using a work smartphone overseas.
Contact your provider to discuss the roaming options they can offer your business.
Some may sell products for businesses which allow you to use UK data, texts and minutes allowances abroad, or pay the same charges overseas as in the UK, for a daily fee.
Others may offer a range of roaming 'bolt-on' allowances for short or extended business trips abroad, at a discounted rate.
When considering these products, check how they work and make sure they apply to the particular country you or your employees are travelling to. Also confirm when they will be activated on the account.
It's also possible to buy global SIM cards from a specialised provider which may offer lower prices when travelling in a variety of different countries.
Wherever you travel in the world, all mobile operators have to apply a cut-off limit once £50 (excluding VAT) - around £36 - of data has been used per month unless you choose another limit.
The provider must send an alert when 80% and then 100% of the data roaming limit has been reached. Operators must stop charging for data at the 100% point, unless the mobile user agrees to continue to use data.
Make sure your employees know to watch out for these text alerts and understand the implications of choosing to agree to use data beyond the limit.
Some providers offer bolt-ons of data allowance. If you do decide to buy a bolt-on data roaming allowance for you and your employees, check what happens when it's used up.
It may be that data use will be stopped unless further allowance is purchased. Or the mobile user could automatically continue using data, but be charged at standard rates. In which case, be wary, as standard rates can be a lot higher.
If you decide not to purchase a specific roaming product or allowance, here is some information on how much you and your employees will be charged as standard when roaming:
EuropeCalls and texts
The cost of using a phone within the European Union is capped under EU law.
The caps apply across most European countries but not in Switzerland or Turkey so beware that you and your employees could be charged more for using your mobiles in these countries.
Travellers within the EU should automatically benefit from the caps, unless they have deliberately chosen to opt out (for example, by buying a roaming bundle).
From 30 April 2016, mobile operators can only charge a limited amount for roaming, beyond what a customer pays domestically. That means providers can add a surcharge of no more than €0.05 (around 4p) extra per minute for calls made, €0.01 (around 1p) for incoming calls, and €0.02 (around 1p) per text, all excluding VAT. You can find out more about the changes here.
You cannot be charged for receiving texts or voicemail (calls made to listen to messages would be charged).
From 30 April 2016, the maximum surcharge that an operator can impose (on its domestic data prices) is €0.05 (around 4p) per MB of data, excluding VAT.
Rest of the world
Costs for calling texting and using data tend to be much higher outside Europe.
Talk to your provider about any ‘rest of world’ roaming packages or discounted rates it offers for the country you're travelling to – see advice above.
Talk to your employees about how you expect them to use their work smartphones when travelling abroad for business.
Are you happy for employees to use them to check emails and call clients or colleagues, but not to access social media or stream videos, for example?
Put a formal policy in place and ensure your employees are aware of its conditions.
We've provided a number of tips to consider sharing with your employees before they head off on a business trip abroad:
Use local Wi-Fi hotspots to check email or browse the web, instead of your smartphone's mobile internet connection.
You can usually access Wi-Fi in places like airport lounges, hotels, and restaurants, sometimes for free, or you can pay to access the internet for a set time period.
Some smartphone apps can seek out Wi-Fi networks and prompt you to connect to them so that you don't have to do this manually.
Stay within range of the Wi-Fi to avoid losing connection. If you haven't turned data roaming off on your handset while using Wi-Fi and the signal drops, your phone may automatically seek out a mobile network to keep you connected, and you may incur data charges.
Think ahead - make sure you download what you need before you leave the UK, such as documents, presentations, videos, maps and apps.
Use your home or office Wi-Fi connection to get everything on your smartphone before you go and make sure all downloads are fully completed before you leave the UK. Partially downloaded items may be 'stored' and resume downloading once you arrive at your destination.
You should also consider changing the email settings on your smartphone to 'manual' before you leave the UK. Doing so can stop your smartphone from automatically downloading large, data-heavy email attachments.
Instead, you can check email and download attachments when it suits you - like when you're at a Wi-Fi hotspot (see tip 1)
Consider using a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service or app such as Skype, Vyke, or Viber that lets you make phone calls over the internet. Make sure you use this service while in a Wi-Fi hotspot to avoid incurring data charges.
Remember, Skype and similar services are only free if BOTH you and the person you're calling are using the service.
If you use a VoIP service to call a landline or mobile number from abroad, you are likely to be charged. However, this may still work out cheaper than mobile roaming call rates. Do your research and compare options before you go.
If you're travelling outside of the EU, check with your provider as some charge every time a voicemail message is left on a phone.
You may be able to disable voicemail while you are away by keying a code into the handset, or your provider may be able to temporarily switch it off on your behalf.
And remember, you may need to contact your provider again to reactivate voicemail on your return. You will, in any case, be charged to listen to voicemail messages while you are away.
Thieves often target visitors so it's important to be extra vigilant.
The company may be liable for all charges run up on your phone when it goes missing up until you report it as lost or stolen to your provider. Therefore, it's important to contact your provider as soon as possible to avoid facing high charges as a result of unauthorised use.
Even if there's a slim chance the phone may be found, it's worth asking whether a temporary bar can be placed on the account.
Be clear about who is responsible for informing the provider of a missing phone.
Once a phone is reported as lost or stolen, a provider can bar the SIM to stop calls being made on the account. A provider can also stop anyone else from using the phone by blocking its IMEI, a unique 15-digit serial number. The IMEI number can be retrieved by keying *#06# into the handset or by looking behind the phone battery. Make a record of this number, as well as the make and model of your handset and keep it somewhere safe.
You can also download an app which can trace a phone if it is lost or stolen and can enable you to wipe details remotely - such as findmyiphone and Android device manager.
Ensure you put a passcode on both the handset and SIM to make it more difficult for thieves to use. These video guides shows you how to do this on some popular handsets.