Telstra will allow wholesale customers to side step the newly created Independent Telecommunications Adjudicator and complain directly to the competition watchdog under proposed changes to its structural separation undertaking (SSU).
As part of Telstra's revision of the SSU, as requested by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and ahead of an industry forum on Friday, Telstra has today published a discussion document that outlines some of its proposed changes.
One of the original proposals was for the establishment of a new regulator that would investigate complaints from wholesale customers who were unhappy with the outcome of a complaint given to Telstra wholesale, known as the Independent Telecommunications Adjudicator (ITA). Its independence was questioned by Telstra competitors at the time, as Telstra itself would appoint the board of the ITA, with ACCC approval.
The ITA was to be the first port of call for wholesale customers unhappy with Telstra. Access seekers were only to be able to go to the ACCC after the ITA. However, under one of Telstra's proposed amendments, the role of the ITA would be diminished, with telcos able to apply directly to the ACCC.
"The ACCC could be given a parallel power to act as the adjudicator, with the same powers under the SSU to make directions as the ITA," Telstra wrote. "In effect, if a wholesale customer has concerns about the independence of the ITA, this would make the ACCC available as an alternative."
Among other changes proposed, Telstra has suggested that the ACCC could be given greater powers to set wholesale ADSL prices in areas where it deemed the method for calculating wholesale prices was not working appropriately. It would also receive greater powers to ensure that all service tasks are handled equally between Telstra retail and its competitors, and that operational equivalence would be extended to Telstra's fibre networks, as well as its copper network.
Telstra said it believes that it can address the issues raised by the competition watchdog, and that it plans to lodge a revised SSU with the ACCC "as soon as possible".
When Telstra shareholders voted in favour of the $11 billion deal with NBN Co earlier this month, Telstra said that if "any material change" happened to the deal as a result of the changes to the SSU, shareholders would again have the opportunity to vote on the changed deal.