ACA braces for smartnumber auction disputes

The Australian Communication Authority (ACA) has put up several dispute resolution processes in preparation for forthcoming smartnumber auctions.Telecommunications licencing executive manager Paul White said the dispute resolution process will depend on the nature of the complaint.

The Australian Communication Authority (ACA) has put up several dispute resolution processes in preparation for forthcoming smartnumber auctions.

Telecommunications licencing executive manager Paul White said the dispute resolution process will depend on the nature of the complaint. The ACA has received complaints from smaller businesses regarding the reserve prices for the upcoming auction.

"If the company is complaining about the auction process, this is appealable through a normal appeals tribunal," White said. "We are also looking at effective ways of resolving other disputes. There are suggestions of setting up an arbitrational process. If it's a complaint from a customer to a service provider, there are also other avenues for that".

Smartnumbers are freephone and local rate numbers initially allocated by auction in accordance with the relevant Act, determinations and guidelines. They are easy-to-remember six-digit 13 and 10-digit 1300 local rate numbers, and 10-digit 1800 freephone numbers.

White said most complaints were focused on the potential disadvantage that the reserve price range will have on small-business people competing against major companies. However, White assured that the ACA had implemented protection measures for small businesses.

"The reserve price for 98 percent of the numbers is only AU$500. We are trying to respond to the concern by increasing the pool of administrative allocation. But businesses should understand that there will always be competition especially for this scarce resource. There are, however, a lot of substitute numbers for most businesses to choose from," White said.

The pool of administrative allocation has 5,000 of the 1300, 1800 and six-digit 13 numbers, which cost around AU$100 each depending on the carriage service provider, and are used for those who choose not to go into the auction.

The most valuable ten-digit 1300 and 1800 smartnumbers have a reserve price of AU$40,000 while the reserve for the most valuable six-digit 13 smartnumbers is AU$27,500.

The auctioning of sought-after freephone and local rate numbers was introduced by the ACA to provide an alternative to the existing administrative allocation system.

The new system will enable users to individually target and bid for more than 1.8 million specific numbers for auction, including approximately 1.2 million numbers which have not previously been available.

White also emphasised that the ACA is not concerned about speculative purchase of the smartnumbers and believes there is "not much point to regulate the activity."

He added that the ACA is not mandating that there be a link between the interested company's name or acronym and the number they are bidding on since "each smartnumber can form multiple words and letters, unlike domain names."

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