Sunday, 05 April 2020 03:23

ACCC pauses inquiry on NBN pricing, wholesale service standards due to COVID-19 Featured

By
ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced a pause on its inquiries examining both NBN entry-level access pricing and wholesale service standards, to allow the communications sector to focus on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision to pause comes from the ACCC in the release of a statement on guidance on NBN access inquiries, outlining its views on wholesale access terms currently being considered by two NBN-related inquiries in position papers released on Friday.

The position papers provide the ACCC’s current views of the nature and direction of any Final Access Determination (FAD) that the ACCC may make, once circumstances stabilise.

“We have released the position papers to provide guidance for NBN Co and access seekers if they continue negotiations on new wholesale arrangements, which are due to expire later this year,” ACCC Commissioner Cristina Cifuentes said.

“NBN Co has recently allowed access seekers to boost their capacity on the network by up to 40 per cent at no extra cost for three months, which does temporarily address a key concern we have regarding NBN access pricing for basic services.”

The ACCC’s position paper for the NBN Wholesale Service Standards Inquiry sets out its views on measures designed to improve incentives for NBN Co to meet its connection, fault repair and technician appointment commitments- and the proposed measures will also allow for “better information sharing and operational support offered by NBN Co to service providers”.

The ACCC has proposed a framework that offers a daily rebate by NBN Co for delayed connections and unresolved faults instead of one-off rebates; and new rebates for underperforming services - and also proposes that current missed NBN appointment rebates are increased to $75 and that these be entirely passed on to customers by retail service providers.

The ACCC says its second position paper, for the NBN Access Pricing Inquiry, sets out what the it considers to be fair and affordable prices for basic speed NBN services of 12/1 Mbps, “which would mean consumers moving to the NBN from legacy ADSL and other services do not struggle to find an affordable plan”.

“As well as benefitting consumers on entry-level plans, we believe our proposed access arrangements will stimulate more competitive prices for higher-speed NBN plans,” Cifuentes said.

“We will also consider other measures to reduce uncertainty over the wholesale price changes that access seekers could expect over time, which can result in higher prices or reduced quality and product offerings for consumers.”

The ACCC says that given the measures that NBN Co has put in place, it now intends to resume the inquiries after the COVID-19 situation has eased.

“We understand there is great interest in the outcome of these inquiries. However, we feel it is appropriate to suspend them right now while the sector works to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the surge in demand for communications services,” Cifuentes concluded.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a 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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