The ACCC will consider whether Australians are able to access basic broadband plans at “fair and affordable prices”, as part of an inquiry into the National Broadband Network wholesale charges launched on Monday.
The ACCC’s inquiry will focus on prices for basic speed broadband products offering 12/1 Mbps, and will consider whether regulation is needed to ensure a smooth transition for consumers to the NBN from legacy services such as ADSL.
“We have concerns that NBN Co’s wholesale pricing has resulted in unfair outcomes for those consumers who have no need for, or do not want, higher speed plans,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
The inquiry will assess whether NBN Co's most recent pricing offers - in particular, NBN Co’s recent changes to its Entry Level Bundle - will allow RSPs to offer attractive retail NBN plans at ADSL-like prices.
The ACCC first raised these concerns publicly in April 2019, after NBN Co’s wholesale pricing changes in late 2018 led to the withdrawal of many basic speed retail plans.
Sims says the ACCC is also concerned about NBN Co’s continued use of discounts to adjust access prices.
NBN Co can withdraw these discounts ahead of a notice period that it sets itself, but the ACCC is concerned that these arrangements may not be providing enough certainty for RSPs as they develop and promote their retail offers.
“This lack of certainty creates unnecessary risks that may ultimately be passed on to consumers, who may face higher prices and reduced quality and product offerings as a result,” Sims said.
The inquiry will also look at NBN Co’s service transfer and reversal charges, with the fees applied each time an existing service is transferred between access seekers.
The ACCC says it considers these charges can discourage the efficient use of service transfer processes, impeding competition and impacting consumers.
“We want to hear from interested parties as part of this public and transparent inquiry process,” Sims said.
“Right now, we are approaching a peak period for NBN service activations and mandatory migrations. The window for many consumers to migrate to the NBN without losing their existing fixed line service is closing.”
“We are interested in what changes can be made quickly to promote competition and the interests of consumers, while allowing NBN Co the opportunity to grow its revenues, invest in its business and earn an appropriate rate of return.”
Sims said the inquiry will allow the ACCC to make a final access determination (FAD), should one be needed, ahead of the expiry of the current wholesale broadband agreement at the end of November 2020.
The ACCC noted that any FAD would provide access seekers with certainty about the terms and conditions of the access to the NBN that would apply should they be unable to reach a new commercial agreement with NBN Co at that time.
The ACCC has released a discussion paper examining these issues and seeking views on those and other related issues.