ACCC warns telcos over broadband

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has asked telecommunications providers to inform the company when they make major changes to service offerings that have the potential to be anti-competitive.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has asked telecommunications providers to inform the company when they make major changes to service offerings that have the potential to be anti-competitive.
 
Graeme Samuel, ACCC chairman, told an ATUG conference in Sydney that the watchdog was 'concerned and surprised' on a Sunday in mid-February when Telstra announced new retail prices for cable and ADSL broadband plans.
 
'As I have told Telstra since -- to advise the ACCC of a major change in what is clearly a sensitive market, on the day it happens, is not good enough. This is particularly so when the relevant market is one that the ACCC has previously signalled its interest in – and in the clearest way possible – by issuing a competition notice,' he said.
 
He said that the ACCC's response to Telstra's price changes and its lack of notification, should send a message to the industry. 'And this is a message I have provided to Telstra directly,' he said.
 
'If you are going to make major changes to your service offerings that have the potential to have anti-competitive impacts -- you need to engage in a dialogue with the ACCC. If you don't then the ACCC will act quickly to stop competitive harm to the industry,' he said.
 
Samuel also said that the ACCC had been monitoring broadband advertising by ISPs, 'both the use of the term 'unlimited' in several advertisements for broadband services and how the advertised broadband speed compared with the actual download speed.
 
The watchdog had written to the Internet Industry Association asking that it make clear to its members these concerns about broadband advertising and remind them of their obligations under the Trade Practices Act, he said.
 
'Those who fail to take note of this warning will find themselves the target of enforcement action by the ACCC,' he said.
 
Samuel also said that the ACCC had been examining unilateral variations to telecommunications contracts. The ACCC had obtained redress for consumers in the past for changes where carriers implemented changes to fixed term and casual consumer contracts (for example, to impose usage limits on previously uncapped download plans, or to change pricing rates) which resulted in detrimental effects to consumers, the ACCC said.
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