NZ, Aus take on roaming rates

TRACEY WATKINS
Last updated 06:46 09/02/2013
Julia Gillard and John Key
BLAIR PATTINSON/Fairfax NZ
GIDDAY MATE: Australian prime minister Julia Gillard is greeted by New Zealand prime minister John Key on arrival in Queenstown ahead of their weekend meetings.

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Australia and New Zealand regulators will get new powers to crack down on exorbitant mobile phone roaming rates both sides of the Tasman.

Prime Minister John Key and his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard are expected to announce the changes today after meetings in Queenstown.

They will give the Commerce Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission the power to set price caps, or force operators to offer local access services that do not require a change of SIM card.

Both governments are hoping to extend the new powers to cover roaming charges in other countries over time - including the United States, United Kingdom and the Pacific Islands.

The changes follow a lengthy investigation and horror stories about holiday makers returning home with mobile phone charges steeper than the cost of their holiday.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams said she could not comment on today's announcement - but confirmed it had been an issue that worried both governments for some time.

"It concerns me greatly when I hear stories of people going to Australia for a holiday but then come home to find their phone bill costs more than the actual holiday. That's just not acceptable.

"It is my expectation that New Zealanders at home and across the Tasman should be able to expect fair and equitable pricing and a clear understanding of the costs."

While prices had dropped recently, that was only because the threat of legislation hung over telecommunications providers, she said.

"When the work began on the report, New Zealanders were facing mobile data charges of up to $30 per megabit but the price had now dropped in most cases to 50c per megabit."

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