ACCC hails Telstra split as win for consumers

Chairman Graeme Samuel says competitive telecommunications sector best serves consumers

ACCC chair, Graeme Samuel

ACCC chair, Graeme Samuel

The chairman of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) says that consumers are the “big winners” from the Federal Government’s decision to impose new regulations which force Telsra to split its retail and wholesale businesses.

Speaking on ABC Radio’s AM program, Graeme Samuel praised the new legislation and said the public interest is best served by having a competitive telecommunications sector.

“There are 21 million Australian consumers, about 16 million of them are using some form of telecommunications service and they are the big winners because, at long last, we’re seeing competition quite clearly infused into the telecommunications sector,” Samuel said.

Samuel was unwilling to comment on the plight of Telstra shares, which dropped 4.31 percent yesterday upon the Government’s announcement, but he warned that the interests of shareholders will never align with those of consumers.

“You will never align the shareholder interest with the public interest where shareholder interests are encroached or enshrouded in a concept of monopoly and monopoly prices and monopoly relationships.”

Samuel also took a swipe at the former Keating Government, saying the decision should have been made in 1992 when Telstra, then called Telecom Australia, was first formed.

“What we're now seeing with yesterday's announcement is the correction of mistakes of previous governments going back as far as the 1990s,” Samuel said.

Consumer group Choice has also given the plan the thumbs up, going so far as to congratulated the Stephen Conroy for "finally taking action to open up the Australian telecommunications market to competition". The group has long campaigned for Telstra’s wholesale telecommunications network to be separated from its retail business.

“Consumers will only gain benefits from improved productivity where there is fair competition among telco retailers. Where one controls the underlying infrastructure we can have no confidence in competition delivering those benefits for consumers,” Choice director of policy and campaigns, Gordon Renouf, said in a statement.

“Video content over the Internet is increasingly important. With Internet TV soon to become a mainstream product, it is vital that the underlying network be separated from not only Telstra’s mobile business but also their stake in Foxtel.”

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Tags Telstraaccctelstra wholesalethe separation of Telstra

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