Trans-Tasman roaming under examination by local regulators

23 Aug 2012

Australia’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) and New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation have jointly released a draft report claiming that operators are making ‘excessive profits’ from trans-Tasman mobile roaming charges. In a press release announcing the publication of the report it was claimed that the investigation by the two watchdogs had provided a number of options for both governments to consider with a view to asserting downward pressure on mobile prices. Included among those are: the improving of pricing transparency; the use of legislation to allow roamers to become local end-users, so they are charged local instead of overseas mobile prices; the unbundling of roaming services so people can use one network for domestic communications and a different network for trans-Tasman roaming; and the introduction of wholesale and retail price caps.

The Australian and New Zealand governments are now seeking feedback on the draft report from consumers, the telecommunications industry, and other stakeholders, and a submission deadline of 27 September 2012 has been announced.

Commenting on the matter, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Conroy noted: ‘The draft report makes it clear that telecommunications companies are stinging consumers on trans-Tasman mobile roaming charges and that their profit margins are excessive,’ adding: ‘I am, therefore, directing the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to put in place an industry standard for mobile roaming so that consumers know exactly how much they will be charged when they make a phone call, send a text message, or surf the internet, wherever they may be overseas.’ It is understood that this standard will be in place within the next year. New Zealand communications minister Amy Adams meanwhile said: ‘New Zealanders have started to enjoy lower roaming prices recently, and the draft report shows that the pressure created by our joint investigation has been a key factor in this reduction.’