Competition watchdog prepares for new ruling on Telstra wholesale prices

ACCC may face tussle on pricing of copper services

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched a preliminary consultation on the pricing and non-price terms and conditions of access for a range of services delivered over Telstra’s copper network.

Last month the ACCC said it would continue its oversight until at least 30 June 2024 of six Telstra wholesale services, covering network access, resale and voice interconnection services.

“While many end-users have already migrated to NBN based services (which are in most cases substitutes for the legacy copper network’s services within the NBN fixed line footprint), a large number of end-users still receive services over Telstra’s legacy copper network,” the ACCC decision said.

Despite the ongoing NBN rollout , the copper network “remains relevant to millions of consumers, before they migrate to the NBN, and in NBN fixed wireless and satellite areas where legacy network services will remain available,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said at the time.

The current declaration covering the services is due to expire at the end of July 2019.

The decision follows a February 2017 ruling by the ACCC, with the commission announcing it would continue to regulate Telstra’s wholesale ADSL service for at least another half-decade, while rollout of the NBN was being completed.

As part of its preliminary consultation the ACCC is seeking submissions with an eye to producing a detailed consultation and position paper in February on the final access determinations (FADs) for the six fixed line services and for the wholesale ADSL service.

“Our inquiry will consider the terms and conditions that should be covered in the FAD, including the prices for the services and non-price terms and conditions of access,” ACCC commissioner Roger Featherston said.

The most recent ACCC decision on the pricing of the services led to a Federal Court battle between the regulator and Telstra.

Telstra in 2015 sought Federal Court review of an ACCC decision that slashed by 9.4 per cent the prices that the telco could charge for the services. Telstra had argued that it should be able to raise the prices for the seven copper-based services — but the court ultimately sided with the ACCC in a decision handed down in March 2017.