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Ofcom has published a guide to help consumers avoid being ripped off when they use their mobile phones abroad.

The guide provides advice on how to cut costs and sets out the prices that most UK users are likely to pay when making or receiving calls or text messages overseas.

One of the tips highlighted by the communications regulator is to shop around to see which UK cellco offers the best price. Other hints include ditching your mobile altogether and using cybercafes to send emails instead of phoning home, or using local payphones.

If taking your mobile abroad is a must, then Ofcom suggests you consider replacing your UK SIM card with one bought from the country you're visiting.

The advice comes as Ofcom kicks off an investigation into the complex world of the wholesale international roaming market. Along with other European regulators, Ofcom is trying to find out why there can be such massive differences in charges between network operators.

"Although some operators now offer simpler, unified retail tariffs, some consumers still incur substantial mobile phone bills as a result of international roaming charges," said Ofcom in a statement.

Ofcom expects to report its findings in the Spring.

Last October the European Commission warned the mobile industry that it expects to see mobile roaming charges fall or face action. Launching its own website to help consumers, the EC noted that roaming charges could vary between 0.5c and €5. ®

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