Australian competition regulator investigating broadband pricing

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is launching an investigation into whether customers have access to ‘basic’ broadband plans at fair and affordable prices.

Undertaken as part of an inquiry into wholesale charges for services offered over the National Broadband Network (NBN), the ACCC said it will examine wholesale prices paid by retails service providers (RSPs), with a specific focus on the charges levied for broadband plans offering downlink/uplink speeds of 12Mbps/1Mbps.

According to the regulator, it will consider whether regulation is required to ensure ‘a smooth transition for consumers to the NBN from legacy services such as ADSL’. It was noted that the inquiry will also assess whether NBN Co’s most recent pricing offers – and specifically the latest changes made to its entry-level offering – will allow RSPs to market ‘attractive retail NBN plans at ADSL-like prices’.

Meanwhile, the ACCC said it remains concerned about NBN Co’s continued use of discounts to adjust access prices, highlighting the fact that the company can withdraw these discounts ahead of a notice period that it sets itself. As such, the regulator has suggested that such arrangements may not be providing enough certainty for RSPs as they develop and promote their retail offers.

The regulator’s inquiry will also reportedly look into NBN Co’s service transfer and reversal charges, which are applied each time an existing service is transferred between access seekers; the ACCC has said it considers these charges can discourage the efficient use of service transfer processes, impeding competition and impacting consumers.

With the ACCC saying that the inquiry will allow it to make a final access determination (FAD), should one be needed, ahead of the expiry of the current wholesale broadband agreement at the end of November 2020, it has released a discussion paper examining the issues and seeking views from interested parties.

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