The Trouble with the TPP series has identified several instances where promises about deal’s benefits for consumers prove to be largely illusory upon closer examination of the actual text. These include weak privacy protections, anti-spam standards, and e-commerce rules. The same over-promise and under-deliver TPP approach arises with respect to consumer mobile roaming. The TPP contains a large telecom chapter, which some governments used to promote as a key pro-consumer feature of the agreement. For example, the Australian government claimed:
Australia has successfully advocated for a provision that addresses, for the first time, the high cost of International Mobile Roaming.
The Canadian government used similar language in its TPP summary, stating that the TPP “includes, for the first time in a trade agreement, a dedicated article addressing the high cost of international mobile roaming.”
Given the high cost of roaming and the desire to create greater trade and movement among TPP countries, meaningfully addressing roaming costs would indeed be a positive aspect of the deal. In fact, the OECD’s Council on International Mobile Roaming Services, which includes most TPP members, has already issued recommendations that raise the possibility of wholesale and even retail price regulation to address the issue.
The Parties shall endeavour to cooperate on promoting transparent and reasonable rates for international mobile roaming services that can help promote the growth of trade among the Parties and enhance consumer welfare.
The “shall endeavour to cooperate” is the weakest of the TPP requirements as it is not a requirement at all. After that, there are a series of provisions that are optional on pricing along with rules requiring transparency where a country chooses to institute price regulation. That is about it. There is nothing that places countries on the road toward better mobile pricing nor any mandate to ensure more competitive pricing. The TPP governments may have included an international roaming provision, but it stops well short of actually addressing the high cost as the Canadian and Australian governments promised in their summary documents.
(prior posts in the series include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension, Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules, Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”, Day 6: Price of Entry, Day 7: Patent Term Extensions, Day 8: Locking in Biologics Protection, Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices and Pharma Data Collection, Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law, Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards, Day 12: Restrictions on Data Localization Requirements, Day 13: Ban on Data Transfer Restrictions, Day 14: No U.S. Assurances for Canada on Privacy, Day 15: Weak Anti-Spam Law Standards, Day 16: Intervening in Internet Governance, Day 17: Weak E-commerce Rules, Day 18: Failure to Protect Canadian Cultural Policy, Day 19: No Canadian Side Agreement to Advance Tech Sector, Day 20: Unenforceable Net Neutrality Rules, Day 21: U.S. Requires Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Report Card, Day 22: Expanding Border Measures Without Court Oversight, Day 23: On Signing Day, What Comes Next?, Day 24: Missing Balance on IP Border Measures, Day 25: The Treaties With the Treaty, Day 26: Why It Limits Canadian Cultural Policies, Day 27: Source Code Disclosure Confusion, Day 28: Privacy Risks from Source Code Rules, Day 29: Cultural Policy Innovation Uncertainty, Day 30: Losing Our Way on Geographical Indications, Day 31: Canadian Trademark Law Overhaul, Day 32: Illusory Safeguards Against Encryption Backdoors, Day 33: Setting the Rules for a Future Pharmacare Program, Day 34: PMO Was Advised Canada at a Negotiating Disadvantage, Day 35: Gambling With Provincial Regulation, Day 36: Why the TPP Could Restrict Uber Regulation, Day 37: Breaking Digital Locks for Personal Purposes, Day 38: Limits on Canadian Digital Lock Safeguards, Day 39: Quiet Expansion of Criminal Copyright Provisions)