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

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.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

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.

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