New regulation to force passing of non-NBN broadband wholesaler rebates onto customers

If it's good enough for NBN, ACMA will force other superfast network operators to do the same.

With NBN set to pay its retailers a series of rebates for missing service standards, such as late connections and fault rectifications, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is looking to regulate the same for non-NBN network operators for its next wholesale agreement

Opening the consultation process for its draft regulation on Tuesday, ACMA said it is looking to introduce a new set of rules that require rebates paid by broadband wholesalers to retailers to be passed through to consumers as either "direct compensation or through measures that mitigate the detriment experienced by consumers".

Although NBN would be contractually obligated by its next wholesale agreement to pay rebates, ACMA said it did not have "sufficient confidence" that those rebates would flow to consumers.

"In practice it will be problematic for network operators such as NBN Co to monitor and enforce pass-through conditions on their access seekers," it said.

The regulator added that it could force retailers to pass through rebate benefits to their consumers.

"In consultation with the Minister and the ACCC, the ACMA has decided to introduce retail pass-through regulations that will complement wholesale pass-through contractual arrangements," it said.

"This will bridge the gap between suppliers paying rebates and retail customers receiving flow-on benefits when service standards are not met at the wholesale level."

ACMA added that indirect compensation, such as movie ticket vouchers, gift cards, or concert tickets, were not considered as meeting the requirements of the regulation.

"They do not provide a direct monetary compensation or mitigate the customer's detriment," it said.

ACMA is also looking to force telcos to publish minimum service level commitments and remedies if those conditions are not met. The regulator said this would allow customers to compare commitments and performance of telcos before they select a service.

"These new rules will require telcos offering fixed broadband services to be transparent about their service commitments and remedies they are providing their customers, and report on their performance against these," ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

ACMA is accepting submissions on its proposals until December 9, with the rules to enter into force in early 2021.

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