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Roaming rates in the Cook Islands

30/06/2012

Customer complaint prompts rate review

Telecom Cook Islands (TCI) chief executive Jules Maher says New Zealand media reports of disgruntled customer Magnus O’Neill’s experience using his mobile phone in the Cook Islands could potentially prompt the company to review its roaming prices.

“I opened a conversation with TNZ last year, asking them to consider lowering their roaming rates into the Cook Islands (especially data). I pointed out that Vodafone’s charges for data roaming in the Pacific are about one third of TNZ’s charges. I was told that prices were being reviewed as part of a wider project. That conversation has just been re-opened after yesterday’s article and both companies are reviewing options for reducing data roaming costs,” Maher said yesterday.

Earlier this week New Zealand media reported that O’Neill returned home from a Rarotonga holiday to a $2000 Telecom bill, just for checking Facebook and using Wikipedia to research tropical fish while he was in the islands.

Consuming 70 megabytes of data might have cost $4 in New Zealand, but in the Cook Islands O’Neill was charged a rate of $30 per megabyte.

O’Neill told New Zealand media the price was ‘extortionate and unfair’. Because he did not receive an immediate ‘courtesy text’ from Telecom New Zealand informing him of its roaming rates for the Cook Islands, O’Neill lodged a complaint with the Telecommunications Resolution Service.

It is standard practice for Telecom to send a courtesy message advising that New Zealand rates no longer apply in other countries. O’Neill is being compensated for $977.87 of his bill – or that which he incurred before receiving the courtesy text.

“It seems the TNZ customer, Magnus O’Neill, didn’t immediately receive on arrival the usual text notifying that different rates apply when roaming overseas,” Maher said of the incident.

“It is usually received within seconds of turning on your mobile in a different country. I’ve asked TNZ to send us the details so we can investigate whether we were in any way at fault in not delivering the text immediately on arrival.

“I understand TNZ is compensating its customer for the data he used prior to receiving the warning text. Apparently he chose to continue using data after he received a delayed warning text and those charges are not in dispute.”

Mobile phone roaming rates in the Cook Islands might be exorbitant for overseas guests, but TCI says it does not control them.

“Telecom Cook Islands has no control over the prices that mobile operators charge their customers for data roaming but we try to influence them to bring prices down. There is a global trend of reducing data roaming prices and we’d like to be part of it. The small scale of our business here means we unfortunately don’t have much sway among the large operators like Vodafone which has a global strategy. Even if we set our wholesale charges at zero there would be no guarantee that the retail rates charged by other operators would fall,” Maher said.

He noted that while roaming rates might be high in the Cook Islands, prices are ‘among the most affordable in the Pacific’ for local Telecom Cook Islands customers. He referenced an independent report prepared by Network Strategies in May of last year, which confirms the above statement.
»Rachel Reeves @ Cook Islands News

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