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Monday, October 25, 2004

Ripped Off in NZ Part VI 

To continue our series where we put the boot into the money sucking leaches that occupy New Zealand's lovely business-sphere and get away with it by making up any old excuse about how whatever they are selling is expensive because we have mountains, a women for a prime minister, a weakness at number 8 on our AB team, good quality olive oil, a fondness for animals or anything else they can think of....

I'm referring to the latest news about how NZ cell phone users are being ripped off. For once Winston Peters is making some use of himself by having a go at a worthy target rather than the massive Asian population flooding Tauranga.

Some excerpts:
NZ mobile calls among most expensive in world

Talk may be cheap - but not if you're in New Zealand where cellphone users are paying some of the highest charges in the world.

The tariffs have come under fire this week, with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters using question time in Parliament to demand to know why New Zealand cellphone users are paying twice as much as those in Australia...

...New Zealand ranked 29th out of 30 countries, with prices that were 62 per cent above the average for medium and high users of mobiles.

A Herald on Sunday survey comparing the cost of a peak-hour five-minute call from a prepaid cellphone to a landline in eight countries found charges here were by far the most expensive.

In New Zealand Telecom and Vodafone both charged $6.95 for the call while in Australia the cost of a five-minute call with Telstra was just $2.25.

In the United Kingdom the cost of a five-minute call was $2.60 with Orange, while in the United States you could make the call with Verizon Wireless for $1.06. Bell in Canada charged $1.75.

Singapore was by far the cheapest with the five-minute call costing 65 cents with MobileOne. In Ireland, Vodafone charged $4.10 for a five-minute call, slightly higher than in South Africa where the same call cost $3.30.

The results have come as no surprise to Mr Peters.

"It's price gouging of the worst sort. It's a massive cost on the ordinary business and cellphone consumer and they've got away with it for years ... we are being ripped off."

David Russell, chief executive of the Consumers' Institute said cellphone users were suffering because New Zealand's mobile market was a duopoly.

"While there was competition when Vodafone first entered New Zealand it has settled down now and both companies know they can make a tidy profit. There is no incentive to lower prices."...
I think it's also worth noting that as well as paying some of the highest prices in the developed world for cell phone calls we are probably a fair way down the list in terms of wages and take home pay. So these prices are really a fair bit worse than they appear on the surface. Think about the student with a part time job getting paid, oh, say 6.95 in the hand an hour then blowing an entire hours pay on a 5 minute call to let their parents know where they are going on Saturday night. Fuck that!

Telecom spokesman John Coulter offers this excuse:

"We have the population of Sydney spread across a large area with lots of mountains. Each cell tower costs us $500,000." He said mobile phone call costs had decreased 30 per cent over the past five years.
While it can't be easy covering NZ with technology due to our population being pretty well spread out it's worth noting that the majority of New Zealanders live in reasonably small compact areas without large mountains cutting them in half.

Here's the breakdown of the main urban areas courtesy of Statistics New Zealand:

City Population (2003)
Auckland 1,199,300
Wellington 363,400
Christchurch 358,000
Hamilton 150,400
Dunedin 113,600
Tauranga 103,600
Palmerston North 77,600
Hastings 61,700
Nelson 57,700
Napier 56,700
Rotorua 55,100
New Plymouth 49,500
Invercargill 48,200
Whangarei 48,000
Wanganui 40,000
Gisborne 32,800

That's 2,815,600 people right there. Roughly 70% of New Zealands population living without the involvement of mountains.

And then there's the internet speed and cost in New Zealand!!!! But that's a whole other debacle.


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