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International mobile roaming

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The ability to communicate regardless of location, including access to data services, is increasingly becoming a necessity for all travellers. In particular, when travelling overseas, Australians reasonably expect to have access to mobile services which are comparable to those available when at home, and reasonably priced. International mobile roaming (IMR) services enable the use of a mobile device, such as a phone or tablet, when travelling overseas without the need to purchase a local service.

Traditionally, the prices of IMR services have been very high. The Government is working on a number of fronts with regard to IMR services to promote the availability and affordability of these services, whilst also fostering a competitive industry that promotes the long-term interests of end-users.

Trans-Tasman mobile roaming

Trans-Tasman mobile roaming (TTMR) services are those IMR services that enable Australians to use their mobile device in New Zealand, and vice versa. At the 30th Anniversary of Closer Economic Relations in 2013, Australia and New Zealand jointly announced that they would work together to address the high cost to business and consumers of using TTMR services.

The Government has prepared a draft of the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (International Mobile Roaming) Bill 2014 (the IMR Bill) that would, if enacted, enable the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) to, where necessary, take coordinated regulatory action with the New Zealand competition regulator, the New Zealand Commerce Commission (the NZCC). These reforms would empower the ACCC to:

  • monitor the wholesale and retail prices and margins for IMR services;
  • publish an annual report on retail prices and margins for IMR services as well as industry compliance with any retail and wholesale price-control arrangements in force for IMR services;
  • impose wholesale price caps (or other price-control arrangements) on IMR services sold to New Zealand operators and suppliers as part of coordinated trans-Tasman action;
  • impose wholesale access obligations on IMR services sold to New Zealand operators and suppliers as part of coordinated trans-Tasman action; and
  • impose retail price caps (or other price-control arrangements) on IMR services sold to Australian customers travelling overseas.

Prior to imposing any price-control arrangements or access obligations the ACCC would be required to conduct an inquiry involving public consultation, in order to determine whether regulatory action is necessary. However, if prices for TTMR services continue to converge with domestic prices, the necessity for the ACCC to impose price regulation using the measures contained in the IMR Bill will likely diminish.

The Government recently conducted public consultation on its proposed policy on TTMR services, seeking comments on the IMR Bill from interested parties, including industry participants, stakeholder groups as well as individual businesses and members of the public that use IMR services. Submissions to this public consultation process were due by 28 February 2014, and are available below.

The Department has prepared an options-stage Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) to accompany the draft of the IMR Bill. The RIS considers what options should be adopted to address the high prices of TTMR services.

The exposure draft of the IMR Bill and accompanying documents are below:

The following submissions were received during public consultation:

If enacted, the measures in the draft of the IMR Bill would implement the recommendations of the final report of the joint market investigation into trans-Tasman Mobile Roaming services. More information on this investigation, including the draft and final reports and submissions received in response to public consultation may be found on the joint market investigation page.

International mobile roaming consumer awareness

In consultation with relevant stakeholders, the Australian Communications and Media Authority has developed an industry standard that requires Australian providers of IMR services to give consumers clear information upon arrival at  their overseas destination and provide tools to allow them to effectively monitor their usage and control their spending while roaming.

More information is on the International mobile roaming consumer awareness page.

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