Australian government prepares trans-Tasman roaming crackdown

The Australian government has prepared legislation that will give the corporate watchdog powers to crackdown on high prices for using mobile services for customers travelling between Australia and New Zealand.

The Australian government has prepared legislation to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) powers to reduce the prices for customers using their home mobile service between Australia and New Zealand.

The proposal was first announced by the former government in 2013 , with the New Zealand government also committing to enacting similar legislation, following a report that found that customers travelling between Australia and New Zealand faced global roaming charges with margins of up to 300 percent for wholesale, and 90 percent for retail, compared to the local services which have 10 to 20 percent margins for the telcos.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull today released an exposure draft of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Mobile Roaming) Bill 2014. According to the explanatory document, the legislation would give the ACCC the power to control the wholesale prices for using mobile services between the two countries, impose access obligations for services sold to New Zealand operators from Australian telcos, and impose retail price caps on services sold to Australian customers travelling to New Zealand.

The commission would also get the power to publish annual reports on the retail prices and margins for roaming products between the two countries.

Before the ACCC gains its price-control powers, though, it would first need to conduct a public inquiry to determine the difference between roaming prices and domestic prices.

The Australian telecommunications companies have already begun moving on the price of roaming, however, with Vodafone introducing an AU$5 per day charge to allow customers on its Red plans visiting New Zealand to keep using their mobile service as if they were in Australia. Optus has also recently introduced new roaming packs, and Telstra reduced the cost of its roaming charges.

The telcos have previously voiced their opposition to regulation on roaming costs, with several stating customers were smart enough to purchase SIMs in the country they were visiting.

The government is accepting submissions on the draft bill until Friday February 28, 2014.

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