Government to consider ways of cutting global roaming changes

The Federal Government will consider ways of cutting global roaming charges, which would potentially benefit Australian start-ups doing business overseas, amid soaring complaints over large bills.


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and his New Zealand counterpart Amy Adams have released a draft report that looks at ways of cutting global roaming charges.


Options include improving price transparency, using legislation to allow roamers to access local charges when overseas, and unbundling roaming services so users can access different networks when roaming and at home.


Another proposal would introduce wholesale and retail price caps.


The Australian and New Zealand governments are seeking feedback on the report from the telecommunications industry, ahead of formulating their final responses.


“One of the most common complaints that I hear is from people who return from overseas and are confronted by a mobile phone bill that runs into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars,” Conroy said today.


“They are angry about the excessive charges and they are angry about not knowing how much they are being charged in the first place.”


Conroy said telcos are profiting from these charges.


According to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Australians made a record eight million trips overseas last year. Meanwhile, in the past nine months, mobile roaming complaints soared by 40%.


Within 12 months, when Australians switch on their phone overseas they will receive a text telling them the exact charge to make a call, send a text or use the internet.


But Ovum research director David Kennedy said consumers shouldn’t get too excited, insisting the creation of an international standard for global roaming rates is “years away”.


“The Australian and New Zealand agreement, when it’s finalised, will stand alone. But there is an interest within ASEAN countries to create an agreement,” Kennedy told SmartCompany.


The ASEAN block includes countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia.


“That’s at a much earlier stage than these negotiations, but if that were to come to pass, the next step would be combining the agreement with one between Australia and New Zealand.”


However, Kennedy said an agreement between Australia and both the United States and European countries is so far off that it may as well be “science fiction”.


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