Monday, 13 February 2017 13:23

Carriers, consumers want telco competition laws to stay Featured

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A group of telecommunications carriers and consumers has called on federal parliament not to pass amendments that would remove competition protection measures in the Competition and Consumer Act.

Among those issuing the call are Optus, Vodafone, Macquarie Telecom, the MNF Group and the Council of Small Business Australia.

The changes, proposed by the government last year, were only backed by Telstra, the dominant telecommunications company in Australia.

Comments were called for by the government in September last year; then in November there was an announcement that the telecommunications anti-competitive laws, originally imposed nearly 20 years ago to support the development of competition in the telecommunications sector, would be repealed.

The Treasurer, Scott Morrison, released an exposure draft bill with changes in section 46 of the Act, relating to the misuse of market power.

These changes will prohibit corporations with sufficient market power from acting in a manner that has the purpose, effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition.

Section 46 applies to all corporations, including carriers and carriage service providers. The section interacts with, and has similarities to, the telecommunications-specific anti-competitive conduct laws in Part XIB of the Act.

Under this part, a carrier or carriage service provider is held to be engaging in anti-competitive conduct if it has substantial market power and utilises that to lessen competition in a telecommunications market or engages in conduct in violation of certain other provisions, including section 46.

The government has argued that these changes make telecommunications protections irrelevant as competition has reached a point where special rules are unnecessary, despite the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently commencing a market study into the state of competition in the industry.

However, competitors and consumers have lined up to reject these claims.

Existing provisions allow the ACCC to act quickly and decisively if it believes Telstra is behaving anti-competitively.

Else, it would have to go to court, a process that could take years.

“We need to ensure the regulator has all the opportunity necessary to maintain competition,” Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong said.

“This is only happening due to pressure from one dominant business. We know from hard experience that when a big dominant business wants a change in regulation it is never for the good of the community.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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