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Telecommunications (Numbering Charges) Amendment Bill
Date Introduced: 9 December 1999
House: House of
Portfolio: Communications, Information Technology and the
Commencement: On Royal Assent
arrangements for the collection of the annual numbering charge by
the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.
- Australian Communications Authority, Annual Report
1998-99, p. 53.
- Explanatory Memorandum, Telecommunications (Numbering
Charges) Amendment Bill 1999, p. 2.
- ibid p. 3.
- ibid p. 4.
13 February 2000
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