The ACCC hopes this year’s change of government will set the stage for a review of telecommunications industry regulation.
Speaking to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) conference today, ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said telecommunications regulation is out-of-date and needs to be overhauled.
“Much of the regulatory structure around telcos is now outdated,” Rickard said. “It isn’t providing the right incentives in the 21st century.”
The telecommunications regulatory regime crafted when the industry was being opened up to competition in the 1990s focused on how to attract players into the market, and on minimising barriers to entry.
With “well over 1000 providers”, she said, attracting competitors should no longer drive regulatory policy.
“The focus needs to shift to ensure the right players are in the market, and that the crooks are out”.
The ACCC, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and ACCAN all agree that the current regulatory regime is wanting.
Rickard highlighted consumer protection as needing reform, because “the bulk of consumer protections are in codes written by the industry”.
That, Rickard said, impedes the ACMA’s agility in regulating carrier and service provider behaviour.
The ACMA needs greater power for direct intervention against providers doing the wrong thing, she said.
The ACCC, the ACMA, and ACCAN agree that “the framework isn’t fit for purpose”, citing the three bodies’ submissions to the government’s 2020 Consumer Safeguards Review consultation – Part C.
The other reform Rickard highlighted is that in a world in which government services will one day be “100 percent online”, there’s a need for “a basic right to be connected”.