Australia's 22 million consumers and 2 million businesses are not receiving adequate attention in the current debate about telecommunications reform according to ACCAN, Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation.

Commenting on today's debate of the Telecommunications (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009, ACCAN pointed to the longstanding failings of the industry as grounds for urgent action.

"With some of the highest prices in the OECD and worst customer service, it is time to shake telcos out of their complacency and do something for long-suffering consumers" said ACCAN CEO Mr Allan Asher.

ACCAN said international experience showed that consumers would benefits from the proposed reforms.

"Australia should follow the example of the UK and European governments by requiring the separation of Telstra's wholesale and retail businesses.

"Functional separation in the UK has delivered competition in the access and backhaul markets, driving down the price of fixed line services, encouraging innovation and driving up investment" said Asher.

Last year, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), Australia's dispute resolution body, dealt with half a million complaint issues. ACCAN says the consumer protection measures proposed in the government bill and minor party amendments will deliver better services.

"Competitive reform is an essential prerequisite to ending the assault on consumers and the consumer protection measures contained in the Bill will force the industry to pay attention to the interests of consumers" said Mr Asher.

Although not contained in the current bill, ACCAN expressed strong reservations about provisions in the National Broadband Network Regulatory Framework Bills which appear to permit the NBN Co to deliver retail or content services.

"If Telstra is to be the subject of structural or functional separation, so should the National Broadband Network Company" said Mr Asher.

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