It's time for the roaming rip-off to end for good

It's time for the roaming rip-off to end for good

Summary: The NZ and Australian governments may be about to announce their plans to reduce trans-Tasman roaming costs, and it can't come a moment too soon.


The issue of trans-Tasman mobile roaming returned to the public spotlight over the weekend, when an opposition politician in New Zealand, Chris Hipkins, complained of civil servants having a "laissez faire attitude" by raking up big bills when visiting Australia.

But as telco journalist Chris Keall noted, the problem stems from high trans-Tasman roaming charges, and the failure of the governments to remedy them.

Indeed, it makes you wonder where Hipkins has been all these years, if he is unaware of the problem.

For years, we have seen many stories and scandals about "bill shock", with charges for those who heavily use mobile services overseas mounting into the thousands. Such disaster stories are still being reported.

Indeed, the matter has been one for the Australian and New Zealand governments, with informal inquiries starting two years ago before both governments announced a formal inquiry last year.

Trans-Tasman roaming is one of the pieces of unfinished business both for a Kiwi government that has largely delivered its first-term ICT manifesto commitments, and for a too-successful-for-its-own-good Telecom Users Association that is now battling for survival and relevancy.

Keall accused Australian Senator Stephen Conroy of dragging his heels while the New Zealand government champs at the bit to fix the problem. Certainly, Conroy does have a lot on his plate.

Luckily, it now seems that a solution is about to be announced in the next month, or thereabouts, with both governments to make a decision on what levers to use to reduce roaming costs.

I hope so, because until then, consumers, including government, face much higher bills than they need to. The rip-offs have gone on for long enough.

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government AU, Mobility

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • That is not the only rip-off

    What about SMS (text messages)? You get charged for RECEIVING unwanted messages and the telcos will not provide a way to reject messages.
  • Vodafone Roaming

    Vodafone already has a roaming agreement with NZ. It is such that if you do take your contracted handset there, you're able to use all services at the normal rates applicable with your service fees.

    While this is specific to Vodafone, Telstra and Optus dont score the same benefits. I can see where this will help some people, but Vodafone's had this implemented since 2011. As a side note, in order to get these roaming options to NZ, you need to have it enabled on your account.
  • Not only NZ

    The problem is that many travellers aren't aware of the problem. Perhaps the travel agents could be more helpful. If everyone knew about it, TravelSIM and the like would be booming and the Telcos would need to think again.
  • Europe is also seeking relief.

    The European Community is also working to educe the outrageous charges for roaming data in Europe. What isa not clear is whether that is only for Europeans or for travellers as well. I work for Telstra as a Small Business Consultant and our teams are working hard to ensure that our customers are not exposed to Data Trauma (forget Bill Shock) . In Australia 1Gb of 3G data is around $10, overseas if using 3G data in another network, on your Australian Sim Card, the same 1Gb of data can cost you $15,000.00 (not a typo!). So in our team we encourage people to unlock their iPhones, and obtain local sim cards in their country(ies) of destination, or use the phone settings to bar 3G data and Roaming data. We encourage the use of Data Monitoring apps like DataMan for iPhone and 3GWatchdog for Android in a "belt and braces" approach to avoid unwanted data charges. The idea of using a real time app in the phone to detect and report on any undesired usage makes sense, as the Australian Telcos servers cannot report in real time on overseas activity. Given the cost to the Telcos in the loss of good will to injured travellers through their hip pockets, it beggars belief that more accurate and sound advice is not advertised heavily. Certainly the Government's "Smart Traveller" should have all of the advice I have contributed here.