A draft report published by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) details its market study of the communications sector, including 29 recommendations spanning a wide range of competition and consumer issues across the nation’s communications sectors. Over the course the twelve-month market study, the regulator noted that it had released an issues paper and consulted with a wide range of industry participants and consumers, with ACCC chairman Rod Sims noting: ‘We’ve undertaken this market study to deepen our understanding of the communications market, and to make sure we have the right tools to address market failure, promote competition, and benefit consumers.’
The chairman went on to claim that the ACCC had determined that the current regulatory framework remained ‘fit for purpose in addressing current and emerging issues, and in ensuring that the long term benefits of competition are realised’. However, he did note that the study had highlighted some areas of consumer concerns which would benefit from ‘some immediate actions’. Accordingly, it was noted that the key recommendations stemming from the report relate to: connection and activation issues as consumers transition to the National Broadband Network (NBN); NBN pricing and speed claim issues; the competitiveness of smaller service providers; and issues flowing from new technology such as 5G.
Specifically, the ACCC noted that the market study had highlighted consumer experience issues around connecting to the NBN and fault rectification. With the ACCC raising concerns that NBN wholesale service standards are precluding consumers from obtaining redress in the event of delayed connections and faults, it will examine the terms of access, with Mr Sims saying: ‘In particular, we will examine incentives in place along the supply chain and whether they are sufficient to support appropriate outcomes. If they are not, we will have to consider whether a regulatory response is necessary to improve service for consumers.’ Advertising by retail service providers (RSPs and consumer understanding of new broadband plans as the roll out of the NBN progresses was also pinpointed as a problem. To address this, the ACCC noted that it has two ‘significant’ initiatives underway to improve the accuracy and clarity of information on broadband plans.
The ACCC is now seeking comments on the draft report by 8 December 2017, and has said it expects to release a final version in early 2018.