Australian competition regulator warns of split issues

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has said that splitting its regulatory functions into two entities could impact the regulation of telecommunications and the NBN.

Splitting the competition regulator into two bodies separating out access and market power regulation could disrupt National Broadband Network (NBN) regulation, and lead to overlap between the two agencies, according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims.

In the draft report of the Ian Harper-led review of Australian competition policy , released last month, it was recommended that the ACCC's functions for oversight for telecommunications access be split into a new regulator along with transport and water, with the goal for having a single regulator with oversight for national access and pricing.

Speaking in Adelaide today, Sims said that for telecommunications regulation, there would potentially be overlap and gaps created through the existence of two regulatory bodies. Sims said that the regulatory powers of misuse of market power and access regulation would be similar, but ultimately, under Harper's recommendations, applied by two organisations.

"Such overlap issues arise overseas, and are why there seems to be an international trend going in the opposite direction to what the panel is recommending," Sims said.

The ACCC's oversight for consumer issues under Australian Consumer Law would also conflict with sector-specific regulations over telecommunications handled by the separate entity, where telecommunications customers are involved.

Sims also warned that splitting the ACCC into two entities would also cause "disruption to some immediate priorities, such as NBN regulation".

The recommendations to split the ACCC also aligns with recommendations made in the Vertigan panel review of telecommunications regulation , stating that a single national telecommunications regulator be created.

Submissions on the draft Harper report are being accepted until Monday, November 17, 2014, and a final report will be submitted to government in March 2015.

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