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Hitch in bid to curb phone roaming costs

Sydney Morning Herald | July 18, 2011

Hitch in bid to curb phone roaming costs

Lucy Battersby

FEDERAL attempts to reduce global-roaming fees between Australia and New Zealand could be stymied by a free-trade agreement with the United States.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is investigating if the introduction of price caps on mobile roaming fees will have an impact on the free-trade agreement with the US and agreements with Pacific countries.

DFAT is concerned that under the US treaty Australian carriers may have to offer US visitors lower rates but Australians would not receive the same treatment there.
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’’DFAT is working with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on a range of issues in relation to international mobile roaming and Australia’s international trade obligations,’’ a departmental spokeswoman said.

The European Commission is forcing wholesale roaming prices lower, recently announcing plans to cap retail fees. Roaming rates are set through secret commercial agreements between foreign and local mobile companies.

The government has been looking at roaming fees charged to Australians travelling in New Zealand and vice versa, because of the proximity and similar regulatory systems in both countries.

In April this year, it launched a market investigation into trans-Tasman roaming fees after consultation found customers were paying too much.

’’It would be inappropriate to pre-empt any findings from that review,’’ a spokesman for the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said.

 source: SMH