Australia and New Zealand have teamed up to investigate the high cost of mobile roaming charges between the two countries to help bring prices down.
<i>The Trans-Tasman Roaming</i> report, prepared by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, found wholesale margins were 300 per cent and retail margins are more than 90 per cent.
This compared to typical margins of 10 to 20 per cent.
The report also revealed phone calls can range from $2 to $8.50 per minute and text messages can cost around 75 cents.
“The report clearly demonstrates the need for government action on roaming charges. Consumers and businesses have had enough of being gouged and putting up with high mobile roaming charges,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement.
Regulators in both Australia and New Zealand will aim to take a co-ordinated approach to stem high mobile roaming costs in the countries.
“We will both introduce legislation into the parliament that ensures that the regulators are able to investigate, and if necessary, take action to regulate prices,” Gillard said.
“If the telecommunications providers act to bring down prices themselves, then of course action by the two regulators will not be required.”
To improve transparency, the report recommends regulators in both countries report regularly on wholesale and retail prices and margins for trans-Tasman roaming services.
However, while the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has applauded the government for giving greater regulatory powers to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), it said it might not result in lower prices.
“We can’t say for certain that monitoring prices is necessarily going to have the impact the Australian and New Zealand governments hope. There has been almost a decade of reports into roaming charges and we know that watching prices doesn’t always have the effect of bringing them down,” Elise Davidson, media and communications manager at ACCAN, said.
“We believe the most effective way to bring down the cost of roaming between Australia and New Zealand is for the government or the ACCC to set price caps, as has been introduced in the European Union.
“Since 2008, EU price caps has seen a significant reduction in the cost of calls and texts for customers roaming in European countries last year and last year price caps were also introduced for data, which is expected to have a similar impact.”
The report also recommends regulators be able to apply remedies asymmetrically against operators.
As part of the ‘economic integration’ between Australia and New Zealand, $8 million will be spent on technology to automate border processing for departures from Australian airports.
In December last year the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced it was seeking comment on a draft international mobile roaming standard to prevent bill shock when consumers are overseas.
In August this year Senator Stephen Conroy, communications minister, tasked the ACMA with implementing an international mobile roaming standard.
ACMA must develop a standard by May 2013.
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