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ACCAN, the Consumers Federation of Australia and the Consumer Action Law Centre jointly submitted to the ACCC’s consultation on authorisation for NBN Co and telecommunications companies who are members of a Special Working Group. The ACCC granted an interim authorisation and is considering issuing a final determination in September.

The authorisation allows members of the group to engage in conduct which would normally be viewed as anticompetitive and illegal. The purpose of the authorisation is so that members of the group can work together to support best performance of the network and hardship measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We support efforts to provide economic stress alleviation measures and ensure telecommunications networks are continuing during the health crisis. However, it is unclear to us that the authorisation is necessary to achieve this goal for a few reasons:

  • NBN has been able to implement capacity optimisation measures outside the Special Working Group.
  • Reports of the groups discussions and decisions has been minimal and lacks transparency.
  • It appears that there have not been any significant material decisions produced by the group.
  • There are reports of consumers being disconnected from services during this time.

 

We make recommendations so that if the final determination is to be granted in September, then the authorisation is written such that it limits the potential for public harm, for example by explicitly preventing price fixing, and ensures that benefits are produced, i.e. by setting higher or minimum standards for hardship assistance.

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