Mobile prices too high: ACCC

Australian mobile telecommunications carriers are charging too much for too little, argues Professor Allan Fels, chairman of consumer watchdog ACCC.

At the Australian Telecommunications User Group (ATUG) now2000 Conference yesterday, Fels said that the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) will soon make publicly available its findings from a recent inquiry into the pricing structures and service conditions of mobile carriers.

Fels said the mobile telecommunications market was recognised as highly competitive.

He said Australian consumers were enjoying a clear trend of bundled technology packages as ploys by which to attract and retain customers. "Consumers have benefited from new service packages and features, many of which combine services unimaginable a decade ago," Fels said.

However, he pointed out that "the more entrenched competition issues remain before us", explaining that telecommunications pricing structures were still under development. "Access declarations and access pricing were and will remain critical in convergence and competition."

Fels referred to the Microsoft antitrust ruling announced yesterday as an example of the potential of new technologies to provide suppliers with a "very fast and large accumulation of market power . . . to the detriment of consumers and competitors".

Fels said the ACCC woud continue to monitor the case and "it is likely that the US outcome (would) be applicable to, and followed in Australia.

"It is an important case for the 21st century. It shows that competition policy is needed in the 'new economy' as much as in other sectors," he said.

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