A draft report published by the Harper Review, which has been tasked with a ‘root and branch’ review of Australian competition policy, has suggested that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) be stripped of its powers related to the pricing and access terms of fixed line incumbent Telstra’s wholesale services. As per the review panel’s proposals, the responsibility for access and pricing regulation would be passed to a new ‘Access and Pricing Regulator’, which would cover such issues over several sectors. Meanwhile, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the review also supported a call by Telstra for an end to price signalling legislation, which is designed to stop companies from unofficially colluding over the prices and terms of products and services.
The Harper Review is being carried out in line with the Liberal Party election campaign pledge for a review of competition policy, with draft terms of reference having been released back in December 2013. With final terms of reference subsequently published on 27 March 2014, an issues paper followed on 14 April 2014, with submissions to this required by 10 June 2014. With the panel’s draft report now having been released it has invited feedback on the proposals by a deadline of 17 November 2014.