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Ringing up the global roaming charges

Published: 6:15PM Saturday April 03, 2010 Source: ONE News

A watchdog is calling for mobile global roaming charges to be capped.

The Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ) says the charges are unjustifiably high and the industry needs regulation.

Paul Ballentyne runs a business selling Kiwiana art and when he took his family on an Australian holiday he also took his work. But his laptop and Telecom wireless internet proved more expensive than he expected.

"My internet wasn't going so I rung up Telecom...they say, oh we've shut down your account because you've got this huge bill which is for $10,576 and 7 cents.

The equivalent internet use back home would have cost around $65 and the fee represents an increase of over 16,000%.

"It's an absolute rort because the companies do very little to actually forewarn customers about the very, very, very high costs," says TUANZ spokesman Ernie Newman, adding that the costs are high because there's no regulation.

Because the charge is incurred offshore, then passed on to the mobile company in New Zealand and then passed on to the customer there is confusion over which link in the chain is ultimately responsible for high prices. And there is no way for authorities to cap prices.

"Many of these charges are way beyond what can rationally be justified," says Newman.

And even the industry admits global roaming charges can come down.

"Global roaming charges are higher than we want them to be and we're working with our commercial partners to bring them down as rapidly as we can," says Paul Brislen from Vodafone.

And Telecom spokesman Mark Watts says prices can always move and there's the potential for them to come down. "Telecom has to strike deals with the people who run or own these networks in other countries," he says.

Roaming rates are currently under review within Apec and the OECD.

Meanwhile Ballentyne says there needs to be clear warnings about the huge hike if you are overseas. He did get his money back on a technicality - after eight hours on the phone.