Bills Digest No. 53  1998-99 Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill 1998


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

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 Legislation Amendment Bill 1998

Date Introduced: 12 November 1998

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Commencement: The commencement dates of the provisions in this Bill are described by the heading to each Schedule.

Purpose

To amend a number of Acts including the Telecommunications Act 1997 to:

  • Provide for the disclosure of carrier information which is likely to promote competition
  • Require the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to monitor and report on charges paid by consumers for telecommunications services and Telstra's compliance with price control arrangements
  • Allow the ACCC to give directions to carriers and to mediate negotiations when other carriers and carriage service providers are seeking access to the first carrier's network.
  • Repeal the provisions of the Telecommunications Act 1997 and the Telstra Corporation Act 1991 which are to be reenacted by the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Bill 1998

Background

The Trade Practices Amendment (Telecommunications) Act 1997 inserted two new parts into the Trade Practices Act 1974.

Part XIB of the Trade Practices Act 1974 sets up a special regime for regulating anti-competitive conduct in the telecommunications industry. The Part sets out the circumstances in which carriers and carriage service providers are said to 'engage in anti-competitive conduct'.

Part XIC of the Trade Practices Act 1974 sets out the telecommunications access regime. The ACCC is empowered to declare services to be 'declared services'. Carriers and carriage service providers who provide declared services are required to comply with 'standard access obligations' in relation to those services. The 'standard access obligations' facilitate the provision of access to declared services by service providers in order that service providers can provide carriage services and/or content services.

The terms and conditions upon which carriers and carriage service providers are required to comply with the standard access obligations are subject to agreement.

This Bill is one of a package of five Bills.(1) Further background about this Bill is contained in the Bills Digest for the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Bill 1998.

Main Provisions

This Bill contains four Schedules.

Schedule 1 - Amendments commencing on Royal Assent

Section 151BU of the Trade Practices Act 1974 allows the ACCC to make rules requiring carriers and carriage service providers to keep records. The sorts of records envisaged are those which would be relevant to the ACCC in the performance of its functions.

Item 15 inserts new section 151BUA into Part XIB of the Trade Practices Act 1974. That section allows the ACCC to give a notice to a carrier or carriage service provider that it intends to make copies of those records specified in the notice available to the public or available to the persons specified in the notice. Before giving the notice, the ACCC must be satisfied that the disclosure would be likely to promote competition in carriage services and must have regard to the legitimate commercial interests of the carrier or carriage service provider.

New section 151BUB is in the same terms as new section 151BUA but it requires that the carrier or carriage service provider make the records available (rather than them being made available by the ACCC).

Decisions made by the ACCC under new sections 151BUA and 151BUB to require the disclosure of records are reviewable by the Australian Competition Tribunal (Item 27)

New section 151BUE allows carriers and carriage service providers to make those records publicly available using the Internet.

Item 29 amends section 151CM of the Trade Practices Act 1974 to require the ACCC to monitor and report to the Minister annually on:

  • Charges paid by consumers for telecommunications services
  • Telstra's compliance with the price control arrangement applying to it
  • The adequacy of each universal service provider's compliance with the universal service price control arrangements

Item 30 inserts new Division 12A into Part XIB. That Division will require the ACCC to monitor and report to the Minister on such matters relating to competition in the telecommunications industry as the Minister specifies. The reports are to provided with the regularity specified by the Minister. Examples of the matters that may be specified by the Minister to be reported on are:

  • Charges for telecommunications services
  • Carriers' and carriage service providers' shares of the total supply of services and total carriage revenues

Item 36 amends Part XIC. New section 152BBA empowers the ACCC to give procedural directions to carriers and access seekers when they are negotiating the terms and conditions on which an access seeker will have access to the declared services. This will include the ACCC being able to direct either of the negotiating parties to provide relevant information to the other party or requiring a party to attend a mediation conference. New section 152BBC allows the parties to jointly request a representative of the ACCC to attend or mediate at the negotiations.

Schedule 2 - Amendments commencing not earlier than 1 January 1999

New section 480A of the Telecommunications Act 1997 will allow the ACA to determine that carriage service providers must give specified information to customers about goods and services supplied by the provider.

Schedule 3 - Amendments commencing on the commencement of section 1 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1998

This Schedule contains amendments which are consequential on the enactment of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Bill 1998. In particular, it repeals some of the Parts of the Telecommunications Act 1997 and Telstra Corporation Act 1991 which will be reenacted by the new bill (items 25 and 68).

Schedule 4 - Amendments commencing on 1 July 1999

This Schedule repeals the provisions of the Telecommunications Act 1997 which deal with the universal service obligation. Those provisions will be reenacted by the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Bill 1998.

Concluding Comments

The Bill does not seem to facilitate further co-operation among carriers and service providers. For instance, there is no provision to warrant inter-carrier roaming by mobile telephone users.

Endnotes

1. Telstra (Transition to Full Private Ownership) Bill 1998

Telecommunications Legislation Amendment Bill 1998

Telecommunications (Universal Service Levy) Amendment Bill 1998

Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Bill 1998

NRS Levy Imposition Amendment Bill 1998

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Lee Jones
2 December 1998
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 1998

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, 1998.

Back to top


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print