19/01/2005

NI pay-as-you-go mobiles hit by cross-border charges

Pay-as-you-go mobile phone users in Northern Ireland could be paying up to six times the charges incurred by customers on a contract when ringing from the Republic of Ireland.

This is according to the first Joint Working Group report on cross-border telecoms issues, by Northern Ireland’s Communications Regulator Ofcom and the Republic of Ireland’s Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

In writing the report, the Group also revealed that more than two-fifths (43%) of Northern Ireland mobile phone customers have been connected to a cross-border base station whilst still in the province, of whom one-third have then made a call which incurred international call charges.

Around 90% of local consumers could not recall being provided with advice about the issue of "roaming" charges when they purchased their phone.

Ofcom’s Northern Ireland Director, Denis Wolinski, said: “Our research demonstrates that consumer concern about inadvertent roaming between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is based on evidence. We are keen to work with the industry to explore possible solutions.”

ComReg chairperson, Isolde Goggin, said: “It is imperative that both Regulators work together to find solutions that will contribute to resolving the long-standing cross-border telecoms issues raised in this report.”

The Joint Working Group (JWG) was set up in April 2004 in order to explore solutions to problems that affect telecommunications users in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. These include mobile phone roaming charges, data transfer, numbering, illegal radio broadcasting, and the potential for joint provision of all-island spectrum licences.

(MB)

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