British mobile phone operators are stinging GPRS and 3G users with extortionate roaming charges when they are abroad of up to £20 a megabyte – that's up to £100 for a single iTunes download and up to £5 just to check your tariff.
An investigation published today by ZDNet UK has exposed this wholesale rip-off, which is compounded by the fact that the phone companies do not provide any means for users to meter their usage of data services.
One reader of ZDNet UK found himself with a bill for an astonishing £769 for using Orange's data services in France and Germany. The same usage in the UK would have cost under £10.
When used in the UK, these data services are usually covered by monthly subscriptions, but those who use data services on a pay-as-you go basis in the UK, or abroad even on contract plans, can get a nasty surprise.
Matt Loney, editor of ZDNet UK said: "It is impossible to justify many of the charges we are seeing. When the experience of most travellers is that Wi-Fi provides a better service at a fraction of the cost - indeed, is often free - then the premiums demanded by the operators seem beyond ridiculous.
"Our advice for travellers wanting to use mobile data is simple: don't.
And as ZDNet also point out, short term greed means long term harm for mobile operators.
"Look what happened to the telco's expensive, exclusive online data services once the Internet got going. Wireless data is too important: it will happen, with or without the mobile operators. It's their call."