New body could take ACCC's telco access powers

Competition Policy Review eyes new body to take ACCC's telco access and pricing regulatory functions

The draft report of the Competition Policy Review has recommended that a new organisation should take over a number of the regulatory powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, including the ACCC's telecommunications access and pricing functions.

The panel conducting the review is chaired by Professor Ian Harper.

The ACCC would retain consumer protection and competition functions under the report's draft recommendations.

A new access and pricing regulator would incorporate:

• the powers given to the NCC and the ACCC under the National Access Regime;

• the powers given to the NCC under the National Gas Law;

• the functions undertaken by the Australian Energy Regulator under the National Electricity Law and the National Gas Law;

• the telecommunications access and pricing functions of the ACCC;

• price regulation and related advisory roles under the Water Act 2007 (Cth).

"The access and pricing regulator should be established with a view to it gaining further functions as other sectors are transferred to national regimes," the report recommends.

The NCC would be dissolved under the report's draft recommendations.

The review panel is also seeking recommendations on ways of incorporating a "wider range of business, consumer and academic viewpoints" to improve governance of the ACCC. An advisory board could be established, for example.

A statement from the ACCC welcomed the draft report and "will closely consider the draft report’s analysis of some institutional issues and looks forward to the community discussion it will generate".

"In particular, the suggestion that access and pricing regulation be separated from the ACCC is a significant structural change," the statement said.

The ACCC said it would work on a detailed response to the Harper review's recommendations.

The panel conducting the Competition Policy Review is inviting submissions from the public until 17 November.

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