ACCC begins fixed line services inquiry; confirms plans for public review of Vodafone-TPG deal

31 Aug 2018

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launch an inquiry on the future of existing declarations for six fixed line services currently offered over Telstra’s copper network. With the current declarations set to expire on 31 July 2019, the ACCC has released a consultation and position paper seeking views on the following services: unconditioned local loop service (ULLS); line sharing service (LSS); wholesale line rental (WLR); local carriage service (LCS); and fixed originating and terminating access services (FOAS and FTAS). According to the regulator, once it has considered any submissions made to the inquiry, it will then consider whether any further consultation is appropriate or whether to proceed to a final declaration decision. Should the decision to continue declaration of any of the services be made, then the ACCC has said it will undertake a separate access determination inquiry that would consider the access terms and pricing that would apply to the declared services.

A deadline for submissions to the inquiry has been set as 12 October 2018, and commenting on the matter, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: ‘The copper network remains relevant to many people during the transition period to the National Broadband Network. The ACCC will consider whether continued declaration is warranted in the long-term interests of consumers … Given the number of services in operation on Telstra’s copper network are rapidly declining as more consumers and businesses transition to NBN services, the ACCC is seeking to take a streamlined approach to the declaration inquiry.’

Meanwhile, in separate but related news, the ACCC has confirmed it plans to begin a public review of the recently announced proposed merger of Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) and TPG Telecom, ‘soon’. The watchdog has said it expects to receive a submission and other information from the parties involved shortly and the initial timeline for the review has been set at twelve weeks. According to the ACCC, the review will ‘look at competitive impacts in mobile services, where TPG now has a growing presence, and also fixed line, where Vodafone is a discounter’. It will also reportedly explore ‘likely impacts in related markets, such as spectrum acquisition markets, wholesale services, and mobile roaming’. In addition, the ACCC will investigate the joint venture arrangements relating to spectrum and possible network sharing that were also announced by VHA and TPG to determine whether these raise competition concerns under the Competition and Consumer Act.