Overseas mobile charges could be capped

Mobile operators could soon have their overseas tariffs capped as Australia and New Zealand consider introducing new legislation to prevent phone users being hit by huge bills while on holiday.

Australian travellers heading on an overseas have enough to worry about – such as sorting out travel money – without being concerned about the cost of their phone bill if someone rings them while they are away.

A joint paper dealing with the issue of overpriced phone tariffs abroad was launched by Stephen Conroy, Australia's minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy and Amy Adams, New Zealand's minister for communications and information technology.

The changes to the law would affect roaming tariffs for travellers heading between Australia and New Zealand themselves.

In the draft paper, the authors state: "For the purposes of this draft report, these options are considered as coordinated action, whereby both Australia and New Zealand introduce similar rules in coordination."

"Coordination of retail intervention can promote fair treatment of all operators (for example, by minimising differences in pass-through) and enhance the sense of a single telecommunications market," they added.

Other key interventions highlighted were retail unbundling, price caps, regulations covering terms of access, more pricing transparency and greater powers for telecoms industry regulators.

The two nations are also considering the possibility of introducing local access to mobile services for overseas travellers and maintaining a watching brief over the industry.

Huge overseas mobile phone costs could be one of the many reasons that many Australian travellers are putting their holiday plans on hold.

According to recent figures from Roy Morgan Research, a majority of Australians were intending to take a domestic break as opposed to heading overseas because of money worries.

Just nine per cent are hoping to head abroad during the Australian winter, a one per cent decrease on the number who were willing to travel overseas back in 2011.

However, the number heading abroad is still higher than it was five years ago, despite failing to meet the expectations of economists.

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