Tuanz calls for greater cuts to MTRs

Lobby group asks ComCom to go further than first planned

The Telecommunications Users Association has called on the Commerce Commission to almost completely do away with mobile termination charges next year and to regulate again if carriers do not pass the savings on to customers. The uncompromising stance surprised Vodafone, which stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars from regulation and would rather see the charges lowered over several years. Last month, Tuanz announced that then-Vodafone spokesman Paul Brislen would become its next chief executive. The Government ordered the regulation of mobile termination charges in August after seven years of deliberations and the commission is now consulting on the details. The fees are charged by telcos, to telcos, to route calls and texts to mobile phones and are blamed for artificially inflating prices. The Commerce Commission has previously suggested fees for terminating calls could be cut from about 17 cents to 4c a minute, charged by the second. But Tuanz has backed a "hybrid bill-and-keep" system for both voice calls and texts that would mean no fees would be payable as long as there was roughly even traffic flow between networks. The approach is designed to cut fees to a minimum while mitigating against the risk of "text spam" and the danger that telcos might seek to put one another out of business by flooding rival networks with incoming calls. Vodafone public policy manager Hayden Glass said no form of bill-and-keep would work for fixed-to-mobile phone calls as, in his view, that was not a "reciprocal service". The commission is due to publish a draft report by Christmas before finalising the shape of regulation in March. Vodafone has not ruled out a judicial review. Tuanz chairman Pat O'Connell called on phone companies to pass on at least 90 per cent of whatever fee reductions eventuated to customers: "If rates drop by 10 cents a minute, we would expect to see the price for calls drop by at least 9c a minute. "If that level of pass-through is not seen ... Tuanz would support calls for the Commerce Commission to look into regulation of pass-through itself," he said. He saw no reason for a "glide path" to lower fees, given the "writing has been on the wall" for many years. Mr Glass said a glide path would be "standard regulatory practice".

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