The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has said that it may place less weight on confidential submissions provided by telcos to its review of fixed-line regulation.
The review, which commenced in July, is currently examining the regulation of six different components of Telstra's fixed-line wholesale services. The ACCC has questioned whether these services will need to remain regulated in the long term as more customers transition onto the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Telstra's retail competitors have almost universally agreed that the regulation needs to remain in place, with some even calling for a better price for access to Telstra's ducts infrastructure, which will be needed for many to provide services on the NBN, given that NBN Co is also leasing pit and duct space from Telstra.
Submissions to the inquiry have now closed, but in a letter to the industry, the ACCC's general manager of access operations and pricing Robert Wright said that in places where telcos such as Telstra have marked their submissions as being "commercial in confidence" or confidential, there should be "genuine reasons for restricting access to that information".
"The ACCC may consider placing less weight on the confidential portions of submissions and other information provided to it if the information provider doesn't allow other parties to view, and comment on, that material," he said.
The ACCC's review of confidentiality clauses likely stems from the criticism it faced when it set Telstra's wholesale price earlier this year at a rate that its rivals such as iiNet believed to be much higher than what it costs Telstra to provide the service. Although Telstra gave detail on the cost of providing that service to the ACCC, the cost was not disclosed to the rest of the industry or the public.
"The ACCC is concerned to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between protecting the genuinely confidential information of parties and promoting confidence in the robustness of the ACCC's regulatory processes by providing sufficient transparency over the basis for the ACCC's decisions," Wright said.
While not all of the submissions will have all of the information made public, the ACCC will now encourage the parties involved to enter into confidentiality arrangements to view each others' confidential information.
The decisions from the review of the fixed-line access regime will come into effect after June 30, 2014.