Section B: ACCC telecommunications regulatory framework
As noted above, the ACCC has a range of regulatory functions in relation to national infrastructure industries as well as a prices oversight role in some markets where competition is limited. The ACCC’s functions include:
- • determining the prices and access terms and conditions for some nationally significant infrastructure services
- • monitoring and enforcing compliance with industry-specific laws for bulk water, energy and communications
- • monitoring and reporting on prices and quality of particular goods and services to provide information about the effects of market conditions
- • disseminating information to help stakeholders understand regulatory frameworks and the structure and operation of infrastructure markets
- • providing advice when requested by governments and policy agencies on how efficient regulatory outcomes and competitive, well-functioning markets can be achieved.
Part XIB and XIC of the CCA are the communications industry-specific provisions of the CCA. Telecommunications markets in Australia were opened to full competition in 1997 and responsibility for the economic and competition regulation of the industry was passed to the ACCC. The ACCC’s role under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) is to promote competition and efficient investment in this and other regulated industries, including electricity, gas and aviation.
The principal barrier to competition in network industries such as telecommunications is that they rely on facilities that are not easy or economic to duplicate. Therefore, a right of access is provided for competitors wishing to use these facilities. The task is to ensure fair prices and non-price conditions of access for the benefit of wholesale users, while encouraging adequate investment in new facilities.
The ACCC administers the telecommunications specific provisions in the CCA, comprising the competitive safeguards contained in Part XIB, and the access regime contained in Part XIC. Significant amendments to the industry-specific provisions were passed by Parliament in late 2010 to streamline access arrangements and address industry structure issues
The ACCC has additional communications-specific responsibilities under the following national legislation: Broadcasting Services Act 1992; Copyright Act 1968; National Broadband Network Companies Act 2011; Radiocommunications Act 1992; Telecommunications (Consumer Protection Services Standards) Act 1999; and the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The core objectives of the ACCC’s communications function, which is a part of the broader Infrastructure Regulation Division, are to:
- • deliver network regulation to promote competition and meet the long-term interests of end users.
- • improve the workability of emerging markets by enforcing market rules and monitoring market outcomes.