Senate Economics Committee report on telecommunications competition laws

The Senate Economics Committee has released its report on the proposed repeal of telecommunications-specific anti-competitive conduct provisions as part of an overhaul of section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA).

The final report has recommended the Competition and Consumer Amendment (Misuse of Market Power) Bill 2016 (Cth) be passed. However, a dissenting report by Labor senators has opposed the proposed repeal of the telecommunications-specific Part XIB of the CCA, arguing that these provisions remain appropriate given the concentrated nature of the telecommunications sector which requires adequate deterrence and facilitates speedy action against anti-competitive conduct.

A copy of the report is available here.

ACCC guidance on broadband speeds

Following its public consultation on the issue, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) has published a report with guidance for Retail Services Providers (RSPs) to ensure their claims about broadband speeds do not mislead consumers, following ACCC consultation on the issue.

The report contains the following six guiding principles:

  1. Consumers should be provided with accurate information about typical busy period speeds.
  2. Wholesale network speeds or theoretical speeds taken from technical specifications should not be advertised without reference to typical busy period speeds.
  3. Information about the performance of promoted applications should be accurate and sufficiently prominent.
  4. Factors known to affect service performance should be disclosed.
  5. Performance information should be presented in a manner that is easily comparable by consumers (e.g. with standard descriptive terms).
  6. RSPs should have systems to diagnose and resolve broadband speed issues.

A copy of the report is available here.

Senate passes Interactive Gambling Bill

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016 (Cth) (the Bill) has passed the Senate with minor amendments. The Bill was introduced to implement the Federal Government’s response to recommendations in the 2015 Review of the impact of illegal offshore wagering.

The Bill amends the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cth) to:

  • criminalise the provision of offshore wagering and lottery services to customers in Australia. Offshore services will be required to obtain an Australian licence in order to sell into Australia lawfully;
  • prohibit the use of automated 'click to call' in play betting. 'Click to call' services are permitted only through the use of a spoken voice call (or equivalent for disabled customers) with a live operator rather than an automated voice recording;
  • adding an exception for ‘place‑based betting service’ to permit electronic betting terminals to be provided in places where the provider is licensed under a law of a State or Territory to provide such services (e.g. TABs, casinos, hotels and clubs); and
  • transfer enforcement powers from the Australian Federal Police to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in addition to greater enforcement powers for ACMA, including the power to record the names of directors or principals of offending gambling services for inclusion on the Movement Alert List to disrupt travel to Australia.

A copy of the Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum are available here.

Regulation Impact Statement released on carrier licence conditions declaration

On 2 December 2016 the Minister for Communications made the Carrier Licence Conditions (Networks supplying Superfast Carriage Services to Residential Customers) Declaration 2014 (Amendment No. 1 of 2016) (the Determination). The Determination extends to 30 June 2018 and imposes functional separation and wholesale supply obligations on certain new superfast networks in addition to new reporting measures.

The Department of Communications and the Arts has now released a Regulation Impact Statement assessing the Determination as compliant and consistent with best practice.

A copy of the Regulatory Impact Statement is available here.

ACMA makes the Telecommunications (Approving Body) Determination

Following its public consultation in December last year, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has made the Telecommunications (Approving Body) Determination 2017 (the Determination). The Determination repeals the ACMA's 2007 Determination from 1 July 2017 and determines that the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) is an approving body under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) for certification of the labelling of customer equipment and customer cabling.

A copy of the Determination is available here and the Explanatory Statement here.

ACCC to extend wholesale ADSL service for five years

Following its public consultation, the ACCC has released its final decision to extend its declaration of the wholesale asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service for a further five years until 13 February 2022.

A copy of the decision is available here.

ACMA registers new version of the Communications Alliance's Connect Outstanding Industry Code

ACMA has registered a new version of the Communications Alliance's Connect Outstanding Industry Code (the Code). The Code has been revised so that, in addition to standard telephone services, it now covers broadband services, including NBN services. The changes to the nine-year old Code are designed to provide telecommunications service providers with access to improved and more efficient measures to connect a customer’s broadband or telephone service in situations where a previous occupant has not cancelled its existing service.

The Code requires phone companies to follow specified procedures to disconnect the previous occupant’s service, to ensure the connection of a new occupant’s phone or broadband service with a minimum of delay. The Code seeks to address delays where a phone company is unable to locate or contact the previous occupant to confirm cancellation of the service. While compliance with the Code is voluntary, the ACMA has the power to ensure compliance by issuing formal warnings or directing industry participants to comply with a code.

A copy of the Connect Outstanding Industry Code can be accessed here.

ACMA registers new NBN Access Transfer Code

ACMA has registered the newly developed NBN Access Transfer Code (the NBN Code). The NBN Code aims to provide industry with "clear responsibilities" in relation to choices of NBN service providers, and to ensure that consumers are able to easily switch between RSPs.

The NBN Code mandates that the transfer of services and products between NBN RSPs must occur in a non-discriminatory way, with customer disruption, delay, and inconvenience to be minimised, and RSPs to "use reasonable efforts" to ensure their employees comply with the code.

A copy of the NBN Access Transfer Code can be accessed here.

ACMA releases the Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2017

ACMA has remade the Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard (the Standard), which provides complementary safeguards to the Do Not call register.

The Standard has been remade to include new obligations for telemarketers to provide the name of their organisation at the beginning of calls, as well as the name of the entity on whose behalf they are calling. The Standard specifies when calls are permitted, when calls must be terminated and what information the caller must give. The Standard also now clarifies other provisions, including the information that must be provided to a call recipient if they call back a calling line identification number to obtain details about the telemarketing call that was made to them.

A copy of the Standard is available here and the Explanatory Statement is available here.

Communications Legislation Amendment Bill introduced into House of Representatives

On 29 March 2017, the Minister for Communications announced the Communications Legislation Amendment (Deregulation and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (Bill) designed to streamline various pieces of legislation, including the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (Cth). The Bill contains amendments to: establish an industry-based scheme for the management of telephone numbering resources;

  • remove the ability of the ACCC to issue tariff filing directions to certain carriers and carriage service providers which are unduly burdensome;
  • permit NBN companies to dispose of surplus assets; and
  • abolish the requirement for the ACMA to consult with an advisory committee before declaring a submarine cable protection zone.

A copy of the Bill is available here and the Explanatory Memorandum is available here.