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Customers paying over the odds to call other networks

Unfair pricing must be stopped now says Consumer Council

The National Consumer Council today called on the Competition Commission to act now to cut the cost of controversial mobile phone termination fees — in other words the charge levied by one operator to call a mobile on another network.

After months of talks, the Competition Commission still looks no closer to making its final decision as to whether price caps should be imposed, and at what level they should be set.

But the Consumer Council insists the Commission needs to make price cuts immediately to ensure that consumers are no longer being ripped off.

"The mobile industry's delaying tactics have meant that consumers will continue to pay over the odds much longer then they should," said Gill Bull, the NCC's head of Public Affairs.

"That is why [we] believe a one-off adjustment is now essential to compensate consumers," said Bull.

Telco watchdog Oftel ruled that operators should gradually introduce price caps, by as much as 4p a minute, from April 2002. But telcos opposed the decision, which was then referred to the Commission.

On the face of it, the Commission agreed that reductions are necessary and will hear arguments from operators this week before it makes a final decision, which is not due until January 2003.

"We called for a price cap last year and Oftel agreed to a gradual reduction in termination charges. But even then we thought the regulator could have gone further and insisted on a one-off cut in charges. So, given the delay, Oftel's original proposal for a phased-in price cap is no longer adequate," added Bull.


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