New Zealand watchdog says telecom companies overcharge

New Zealand watchdog says telecom companies overchargeWellington - New Zealand's watchdog Commerce Commission said Wednesday that the country's two main telecommunication companies, Telecom and Vodafone, charged too much for mobile phone calls.

Their rates were "significantly above current international cost- based benchmarks," chairwoman Paula Rebstock said.

She said reduced price offers by the companies, which are trying to avoid government regulation forcing them to cut charges, were not acceptable.

Rebstock said Vodafone had offered to reduce rates gradually to 15 New Zealand cents (8.5 US cents) a minute and then reducing gradually to 11 New Zealand cents, and Telecom to 16 cents, reducing over time to 10 cents.

The commission believed rates could be as low as 7 cents a minute, she said.

Text messages, which the companies were offering to reduce to 7 cents and 3.5 cents, could be as low as 1 cent a minute, Rebstock said.

The commission called on the companies to come up with new offers by April 22. (dpa)

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