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ACCAN rejects repeal of telco privacy rules

Adam Bender | May 7, 2014
A government proposal to reduce privacy regulations on telecom carriers has met with resistance from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

However, ACCAN said the pre-selection rules is no longer important for consumers.

"This requirement assisted in the introduction of competition in telecommunications and according to ACMA reports, is now rarely used by consumers," ACCAN said.

"We understand that this represents substantial future savings to industry as it avoids having to configure pre-selection to an NBN environment."

While pre-selection is not appropriate in an NBN world, a small percentage of business customers still rely on it and so it should remain for switched telephone services delivered by copper, ACCAN noted.

ACCAN also disagreed with Optus's objections to a proposal that would end a requirement on Telstra to report annually on its obligation to deliver services to regional areas.

"The consumer impact of removing the local presence plan requirement is low. However, it is vitally important for regional, rural and remote Australia that the requirement for Telstra to have a local presence be maintained," ACCAN said.

Farmers fight revamped Customer Service Guarantee

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) said in its submission that the government has overstated the level of competition in rural areas in making a proposal to overhaul the Customer Service Guarantee, a mechanism that sets maximum timeframes carriers must meet when connecting telephone services, repairing faults and keeping appointments with customers.

The Department of Communications said in its proposal that the current CSG is burdensome to telcos. Instead, it proposed a "more market-based instrument".

"The claims made regarding the level of competition in rural areas do not seem to reflect the reality of farmers' experiences, where the market in many areas is limited to a single provider," said the NFF.

"It is therefore essential that the telecommunications market be supported with measures to ensure competition, simply so that customers in rural and remote Australia can be ensured of access to telecommunications services. Within this context, the CSG is an important mechanism for ensuring telecommunications services are repaired and delivered within reasonable timeframes."

Citing similar competition concerns, the NFF also appeared hesitant for the government to repeal retail price controls (RPCs) applying to Telstra.

The NFF said it understands that removal of RPCs in international markets has not led to increased prices in rural areas.

"However, with the lack of competition currently in the market, the NFF is still keen to ensure that farmers and rural businesses are not overcharged for their telecommunication services," it wrote.

"Therefore, if RPCs were to be removed, the NFF would be keen to ensure that there is still an ability for government to intervene — for example, the relevant Federal Minister retaining power to rule a determination — if it was found that rural and remote customers were experiencing unreasonable price increases."


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