Mobile phone bills are set to fall on both sides of the Tasman after the Australian and New Zealand governments indicated they will honour a deal to crack down on exorbitant roaming charges.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard announced the trans-Tasman roaming agreement with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in February, with both leaders warning telcos to slash the sky-high charges faced by millions of travellers between the countries or face greater regulation.
The Australian Labor Party failed to legislate the changes before losing office in September’s election.
While stopping short of fully committing to the deal, newly installed Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicated the Australian government will honour the proposals – which include mandatory price caps on calls and data.
“The Minister for Communications is consulting with his colleagues on the proposed arrangements with New Zealand,” Mr Turnbull’s spokesman told AAP.
“While this consultation is still ongoing, the government is viewing the proposed arrangements positively.”
The New Zealand government remains fully committed to the crackdown, which comes as a new report in Australia revealed the “extraordinary” and “confusing” array of roaming charges consumers now face.
“Legislation is being drafted for introduction early next year,” a spokesman for New Zealand Communications Minister Amy Adams told AAP.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomed Mr Turnbull’s apparent willingness to honour the deal and said it would like to see similar crackdowns arranged with other countries.
ACCAN published research showing that Australian consumers face wildly varying roaming charges, ranging from $3.50 for a text message down to 38 cents.
Data costs range from a whopping $51.20/MB down to 50 cents/MB.
ACCAN says buying and using a local SIM card is still the best option for many travellers.
Australia’s largest telco, Telstra, says its charges have fallen since a joint Aussie-Kiwi report into roaming costs was published in February.
Telstra has also introduced new SMS alerts giving customers specific pricing details for each country they roam in and alerts for every 20MB of data they use.