Australian government targets international roaming

Draft legislation could lead to price controls on industry
Australian government targets international roaming

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would be able to cap international roaming prices between Australia and New Zealand under draft legislation revealed this week.

Under the proposal, the ACCC would be able to take coordinated regulatory action with the New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC) to reduce international roaming rates between the two countries.

The changes would give ACCC the power to monitor wholesale and retail prices and margins for international mobile roaming services (IMR), impose wholesale price caps and wholesale access obligations on IMR services sold to New Zealand operators and suppliers, and impose retail price caps on IMR services sold to Australian customers travelling overseas.

The proposal would also require ACCC to publish an annual report on retail prices and margins for IMR services and industry compliance with any retail and wholesale price controls.

The ACCC would not be able to impose any price controls or access obligations without first conducting an inquiry with public consultation.

“The ability to communicate regardless of location, including access to data services, is increasingly becoming a necessity for all travellers,” the Department of Communications said.

“In particular, when travelling overseas, Australians reasonably expect to have access to mobile services which are comparable to those available when at home, and reasonably priced.”

The Department of Communications has invited comment on its proposal, which is available in full on its website. Submissions are due by close of business on 28 February.

The proposal has already won praise from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). The consumer group said it has recently done research showing that some consumers spend more than $50 for 1MB of data while overseas.

“ACCAN welcomes the government’s proposal to give the ACCC the power to bring sky-high global roaming margins back down to earth,” ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said in a statement.

“While the telcos have recently made some encouraging moves on selected plans, ultimately the margins the telcos make off Australians overseas remain exorbitant.”

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia have all recently announced moves to reduce international roaming rates.

Vodafone provides international roaming for $5 a day in 46 nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, most of Europe and several countries in Asia. Optus has a similar $10 a day roaming plan.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of a dystopian novel about surveillance. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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More about: ACCC, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Department of Communications, Hutchison, IMR, Optus, Telstra, Vodafone
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