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Telstra reverses global roaming price hike

Telstra has scrapped its decision to triple excess data charges for global roaming after a widespread customer backlash.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

A controversial decision by Telstra to up its global roaming charges during the Christmas period has been reversed by CEO Andrew Penn, with the telecommunications provider to lower its excess data fees while increasing data allowances.

"I am pleased to say we are changing two pricing decisions which we announced recently around international roaming and charges for paper bills," Penn said in a blog post on Thursday.

"Good leadership means recognising when it is right to change decisions because it is the right thing for our customers. Price increases are often necessary and I completely understand why the teams that look after our products made the changes they did. But they didn't sit well with me, customers clearly told us the same, so it's my responsibility to act on behalf of our customers."

As a result, Telstra will scrap the previously announced excess data fees -- which were to increase from 3c to 10c per 1MB -- while maintaining the 50 percent increase in data allowances on its Travel Passes to a greater pool of countries.

"Telstra has worked hard at removing the pain point of International Roaming charges with the introduction of Travel Passes that make using a mobile overseas more affordable and predictable."

Telstra had announced the decision to triple its excess data charges for many tourist destinations on Monday, with hundreds of customers slamming the decision.

Telstra rival Vodafone Australia, meanwhile, offers customers on its Red plans international roaming capped at just AU$5 per day.

Last month, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was also revealed to be encouraging its 12 member states to promote more transparent and reasonable costs for international mobile roaming services in order to support the growth of trade and improve consumer interests, but fell short of explicitly requiring regulation.

The full text of the TPP was published on the website for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade a month after reaching agreement, with the treaty aiming to regulate trade between Malaysia, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile.

The wording of Article 13.6 of the Telecommunications chapter [PDF], which covers international mobile roaming, is fairly soft, however, with the TPP simply stating that members "may choose to adopt or maintain measures affecting rates for wholesale international roaming services with a view to ensuring that those rates are reasonable".

"Nothing in this Article shall require a party to regulate rates or conditions for international mobile roaming services," part 7 of the Article states. Rather, parties must simply "endeavour to cooperate on promoting transparent and reasonable rates".

If parties deem it "appropriate", they may also work alongside other member states to implement mechanisms for ensuring roaming rates are reasonable.

The Telstra chief executive also used the blog post on Thursday to announce that the telco would change the amount charged on paper bills whether they are posted to customers or paid over the counter.

"We will charge AU$2.20 to receive a paper bill and separately, AU$1 for each over-the-counter payment made," Penn said.

"This allows us to recoup costs and avoids the need to charge everyone for a service which a minority of our customer base continues to use. These are equivalent to or better than competitor charges and below various other non-telco organisations. We will also rebate the difference to customers charged the AU$3.20 fee, where applicable...

"On behalf of the team, I hope these decisions are recognised as our continued commitment to our customers."

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