ACCC rules on number portability

Telecommunications carriers should be responsible for all costs incurred on their own network when providing local number portability, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has ruled.

The Commission released yesterday its report into number portability, called Pricing Principles for Local Number Portability -- a Guide.

Issues surrounding the cost of local number portability, which provides customers with the ability to change their local-call supplier without changing their telephone numbers, have raised debate in the industry for more than a year now.

According to ACCC chairman Professor Allan Fels, yesterday's announcement reflects a change to the approach proposed in the draft guide released in April 1998, where the ACCC indicated that most costs would be borne by the carrier whom the customer leaves. However, administrative costs of a customer 'porting' their number would be the responsibility of the carrier receiving the customer.

Under the new guide, the ACCC has decided the carrier receiving a customer should not be responsible for any costs incurrred by the carrier whom the customer leaves.

"No carrier of telecommunications services should be able to hinder the development of competition by loading its own costs onto its competitors," Fels said.

"Application of the pricing principles will ensure competition in the provision of local calls will grow."

The ACCC also suggested that by bearing their own costs of providing local number portability, carriers will have the incentive to adopt the most effective methods of providing local number portability to customers, in turn leading to lower costs for carriers and lower call prices for customer.

Allan Horslet, managing director of the Australia Telecommunications User Group, described the ruling as "incredibly sensible".

"What this decision has done is to get rid of a lot of the intrigue and mystery that was kicking around . . . it's an incredibly simple decision," he said.

According to Horsley, the ACCC's decision will have no impact on the ATUG and Westel number portability joint venture, which provides a number portability database for carriers, announced in May [see NWWT, May 20, "ATUG and Westel team up on number portability service"].

"The Westel number portability database is crucial to allowing number portability to happen. What the ACCC is saying is here are the principles in which costs allocation will take place."

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More about ATUGAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionAustralian Competition and Consumer CommissionHorsleyProvisionTelecommunications User GroupWestel

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