OECD wants crackdown on data-roaming costs

New telecoms rules are needed to promote competition between operators and so drive down prices for data-roaming services, the economic organisation has urged

Regulators need to create more competition between mobile operators in order to drive down data-roaming prices, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD, which includes the UK and US among its 34 global members, said on Wednesday there is a "strong case" for new consumer protection rules, as it is too expensive for many people to use the mobile internet while travelling abroad.

In a report (PDF) published on Wednesday, the OECD said there is generally insufficient retail or wholesale competition when it comes to data roaming. It found the average price per megabyte for data, after adjusting for relative purchasing power, is $9.48 (£5.79). Canadians pay the most, at $24.61 per megabyte, and Greeks the least, at $4.17.

"The wide difference in prices... can be explained by Greek mobile phone companies being charged less by wholesale operators than Canadian operators and passing those savings onto customers," the OECD said in a statement. "Or it could reflect greater competition in the Greek retail roaming market than in Canada."

Actual cost of data roaming

ZDNet UK's investigations earlier this year found the actual cost to operators of providing data roaming is between 1p and 3p per megabyte. As part of our campaign around this issue, a petition has been set up calling on operators to bring their prices for such services much closer to their costs.

The OECD recommended establishing cut-off limits for data roaming so as to avoid 'bill shock', as has been done in the EU. The report also cited the EU implementation of regulations on wholesale data-roaming charges, noting that the fact the gap between wholesale and retail prices subsequently widened indicated "a possible lack of effective competition in this market".

This is an analysis shared by the European Commission. New EU rules set to be proposed by the Commission later this month will introduce both retail price caps and deeper structural changes, which are intended to increase competition between operators and drive down prices.

ZDNet UK and its sister sites carried out an international data-roaming survey in March, in which 20 percent of respondents said data-roaming charges were too high, and 76 percent said they were much too high.

Sign ZDNet UK's petition for fair data-roaming charges.


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