Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Clampdown on roaming calls charges long overdue

13 July, 2004

Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA has called for an end to so-called roaming charges for mobile phone users throughout Ireland.

Mr Mc Laughlin said:

"The European Commission carried out an investigation two years ago that concluded that Mobile Phone service providers are guilty of charging inflated 'roaming' tariffs.

"The investigation focused on the high cost of calls charged to travellers‚ abroad - mostly on holidays. But anyone here in Ireland that uses a mobile phone will be aware that this practice affects - on a daily basis - inhabitants that live in close proximity to or have to travel regularly cross border.

"Those travelling abroad are aware that using a mobile phone in a foreign country will incur additional costs. But living in close proximity to the border often results in involuntary 'roaming' charges being imposed on unsuspecting mobile users because of a competing stronger signal from the opposite side of the border. Mobile phone signals do not recognise borders and therefore short of turning the phone off when travelling there is no option but to pay. That is unless the mobile phone service providers cease to exploit their customers on either side of the border.

"The imposition of these 'roaming' charges is even more unacceptable given that the major providers operate throughout the island of Ireland. There is no rational explanation why the regulators North and South should not be able to co-operate in devising a formula for a single tariff for the 32 counties. The Minister responsible for Communications in the 26-counties has pledged to look into the practice and although O2 Ireland introduced an all-Ireland tariff for southern customers its sister company O2 UK that operates in the North has made no such provision.

"I have previously been in contact with the providers North and South to highlight this anomaly and while they acknowledged the problem and promised to investigate ways in which to address it, it is not being treated with the urgency it deserves. Etain Doyle, the then 26 county telecom regulator, who is joined by two other members, John Doherty and Osolde Goggin on what is now the Commission for Communications Regulation, promised to study the market but as yet, to my knowledge has not produced a report.

"Despite the fact that Œroaming calls‚ account for only 5% of total calls made it is estimated that a disproportionate 15% of profits are derived from these calls.

"I have written to the regulators North and South requesting meetings to discuss this unfair practice and I will also be contacting both Ministers to request that they actively pursue measures to address the problem. I intend to continue in my efforts to have this practice eradicated and replaced by a system of fair and equitable charges for service provided which is not impacted by where on this island a person lives."ENDS

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