Bills Digest No. 117  1999-2000


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

Telecommunications (Numbering Charges) Amendment Bill 1999

WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Concluding Comments
Endnotes
Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Passage History

Telecommunications (Numbering Charges) Amendment Bill 1999

Date Introduced: 9 December 1999

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Commencement: On Royal Assent

Purpose

To alter arrangements for the collection of the annual numbering charge by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).

Background

The Telecommunications (Numbering Charges) Act 1997 (the principal Act) imposes charges on carriage service providers(1) (CSPs) for the numbers they are allocated under Part 22 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The principal Act also imposes an annual charge on providers for the numbers they hold after 1 July 1997. This Bill is concerned with the collection of the annual charge. In 1999, carrier liability for the charge was assessed to be approximately $60 million.(2)

A CSP may hold a number as a result of being allocated the number by the ACA or through a transfer of the number by way of a commercial resale arrangement.

The number of transfers from primary providers (those who have been allocated numbers by the ACA) to secondary providers (resellers) makes the collection of the annual charge administratively complex. The Explanatory Memorandum reports that in 1997-98 the ACA had to deal with 102 CSPs, of whom 83 were secondary suppliers paying only 6 percent of total revenue, with most invoices being for less than $120.(3) In some cases resellers are not aware of their liability or dispute liability resulting in increased collection costs.

This Bill inserts a more restrictive definition of the circumstances in which number charge liability may be 'transferred' with the intention of reducing the complexity of collecting the charge for the ACA.

Main Provisions

Item 1 repeals the definition of 'transferred' in section 5 of the Act and inserts a definition that is a signpost to new section 5A.

There are two circumstances in which a number may be transferred. New subsection 5A(1) states that a number will be transferred between 2 CSPs when the number is ported from one of the providers to the other provider.

The word 'ported' is not defined in the principal act or the Telecommunications Act 1997. However the Explanatory Memorandum indicates that the term is intended to cover transfers instigated by a customer who wishes to change their carriage service provider but retain the same number.(4)

The second instance of a number being transferred is stated in new subsection 5A(2). This is the situation where two CSPs enter into a binding written agreement which provides that a number is to be transferred from one of them to another. Notice of the transfer must be given to the ACA.

When primary providers sell numbers to resellers they will not have to transfer liability for the charge. They may do so however by entering into a written agreement with resellers and notifying the ACA.

New section 5A(3) provides that porting of a number takes precedence over a written transfer when attempting to determine the time of transfer.

Section 17 of the principal Act defines the holder of a particular number for the purpose of determining liability for the numbering charge. The amendment proposed by item 3 will ensure that a CSP will only cease to be the holder of a number if it is 'transferred' to another service provider. Transfers outside the scope of the definition in new section 5A will not effect the imposition of the annual charge.

Item 4 inserts a new section 18. Currently the annual charge is calculated on the 22 May (the 'anniversary date' under section 18(2)).This date has proved inconvenient because charges must be paid by 15 June.

The new section provides for a more flexible timeframe. New subsection 18(2) provides that before 16 February each year the ACA must nominate a day in April when the charge will be imposed.

The Explanatory Memorandum states that although the proposed section gives the ACA some flexibility to deal with 'exceptional circumstances' it is not intended that the ACA will alter the date 'arbitrarily'. (5)

Item 5 deals with the application date of the legislation. Subitem 5(2) provides that if the Act receives Royal Assent after 15 February 2000 the amendments will come into effect in 2001.

Subitem 5(3) clarifies that an agreement to transfer a number or a notice to the ACA made prior to this Bill receiving Royal Assent will still be captured by the definition of 'transferred' in new section 5A(2). The provision is designed to ensure that CSPs do not need to renegotiate transfer agreements.

Concluding Comments

While the Bill simplifies collection arrangements for the ACA, it may operate to the disadvantage of carriers who are primary providers. Under the new definition of 'transferred' in section 5A a primary provider may retain the liability for the annual charge despite the fact that a number has been purchased by a reseller.

Carriers have two options in order to avoid bearing the liability. Firstly, they may pass the cost of the annual charge on to resellers directly when numbers are purchased. Alternatively, carriers may bring their arrangements within the new definition of 'transferred' by entering into a binding written agreement with resellers and notifying the ACA.

In either case, a portion of the administrative burden of collecting the charge is passed from the ACA to carriers.

Endnotes

  1. A carriage service provider, in general, supplies, or proposes to supply, carriage services (for example phone or Internet access services) to the public using network units owned by a carrier.

  2. Australian Communications Authority, Annual Report 1998-99, p. 53.

  3. Explanatory Memorandum, Telecommunications (Numbering Charges) Amendment Bill 1999, p. 2.

  4. ibid p. 3.

  5. ibid p. 4.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Mark Tapley
13 February 2000
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members
and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 2000

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 2000.

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