Sunday, 25 June 2017 15:21

Optus hits out at VHA over mobile roaming regulation Featured

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Optus has disputed suggestions that regulation of mobile roaming services in Australia might lead to price reductions for consumers and has taken a swipe at competitor Vodafone Hutchison Australia and its response to an ACCC draft decision on roaming.

Optus gave its perspective on the issue in a brief statement issued on Friday after VHA released details of an "independent study" it commissioned which found that Australian mobile users could benefit to the tune of $658 million in savings every year if domestic roaming services are regulated.

VHA said the study independently confirmed that domestic roaming would be a game-changer for regional Australia, “saving consumers millions annually and providing the best opportunity to drive mobile coverage expansion”.

VHA commissioned the study by London-based economic group Frontier Economics in response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s draft decision last month not to declare wholesale mobile roaming services, saying there was insufficient evidence that declaration — or regulation — would improve competition amongst telcos.

VHA asked the Federal Court for a judicial review of the ACCC’s inquiry, saying it didn’t believe it had been carried out properly.

In its draft decision not to declare roaming services, the ACCC said that declaration in regional, rural and remote areas may not reduce Telstra’s retail mobile prices to a significant extent and could well result in overall “higher prices if other service providers raise their retail prices to reflect the cost of roaming access prices, for example”.

Optus — Australia’s second largest telco behind market-leader Telstra and ahead of third-placed VHA — was quick to have a shot at VHA, reminding the telco that the ACCC’s draft decision “calls out that declaration may result in higher prices for regional consumers”.

Optus’ Andrew Sheridan said, unequivocally, that roaming would not lead to price reductions.

“In fact, the ACCC’s draft decision recognised that it may result in higher prices for regional consumers,” he pointed out.

And he was critical of VHA.

“VHA hasn’t publicly released its submission yet, but previous claims it’s made in this inquiry have been built on sand, and haven’t held up under scrutiny.”

VHA’s chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd had said, when releasing the results of the study on mobile roaming that found cost savings of $658 million would flow to consumers:  “That’s an extraordinary amount of money that could be staying in the wallets of consumers, instead of lining Telstra’s pockets with no added value.

“The benefits are so large that regulated domestic roaming is a ‘no-brainer’ for regional Australia.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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