Australia, NZ Govt threat to telcos: reduce roaming charges or we’ll make you

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Image: Inha Leex Hale/Flickr (CC)

Image: Inha Leex Hale/Flickr (CC)

This was probably buried under the announcements made by the New Zealand and Australian governments – including resettling 150 refugees to New Zealand; however it is an important story in its own right. Julia Gillard and John Key have both issued a threat to telcos: reduce roaming charges between the two countries, or they’ll force them through legislation.

Both governments have announced that the independent regulators – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and New Zealand’s Commerce Commission – will investigate and regulate roaming prices. At this stage, the ACCC does not have the power to resolve roaming charges – but both Gillard and Key have said that they will introduce legislation unless the telecommunications providers can themselves push prices down.

The proposal will also allow both Australian and New Zealand businesses and customers to use, at reasonable cost, their existing mobile phones when travelling across the Tasman.

This comes after a report by the communications ministries highlighted that customers could face roaming charges of $20 per megabyte when sending data; while phone calls are priced between $2 and $8.50 a minute.

“The report clearly demonstrates the need for government action on roaming charges,” Gillard said in a press conference. “Consumers and businesses have had enough of being gouged and putting up with high mobile roaming charges.”

Gillard and Key also hope that this could lower roaming charges in other countries, including the United States and the European Union.