Crackdown on excessive mobile roaming charges

Too high a price for global roaming

RMIT lecturer Dr Mark Gregory labels global roaming charges as 'extortionist' and calls for the government to step in.

Mobile phone companies who gouge their customers while using their devices overseas are in the government's sights with telcos to be forced to tell consumers the exact costs of international calls and texts.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy made the announcement today with his New Zealand counterpart, Amy Adams. The new rules are expected to come into effect within a year.

Telcos will be required to send an alert to their customers travelling abroad telling them how much it will cost to make phone calls, send text messages or to surf the web.

Senator Conroy will direct the Australian Communications and Media Authority to create the new industry standard.

Travellers are often hit with exorbitant bills, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, for making calls, sending texts or monitoring emails, he said.

When consumers are paying more for the phone bill than the holiday itself, then something is wrong.

"When consumers are paying more for the phone bill than the holiday itself, then something is wrong," Senator Conroy said.

Ms Adams said New Zealanders and Australians who freely travelled between the two countries under the trans-Tasman agreement were being unfairly hit with hefty phone bills.

"While we are travelling so freely and talking to family and friends in both countries ... it is important to both of our governments to know the New Zealanders and Australians have access to fair and reasonable pricing and be aware of what charges they will face," she said.

Ms Adams said when the work began on the report, New Zealanders were facing mobile data charges of around $NZ30 per megabit but the price had now dropped to 50 NZ cents.

A draft report into trans-Tasman global roaming rates has recommended:

  • Improving pricing transparency.
  • Using legislation to allow international customers to become local end-users, so they are charged local rates instead of overseas mobile prices.
  • Unbundling roaming services so people can use one network for domestic communications and a different network for trans-Tasman roaming.
  • Introducing wholesale and retail price caps.

The Australian and New Zealand governments will also work together over the next six months to investigate possible price caps for international roaming services.