Telstra is considering giving the Australian Competition and Consumers Commission (ACCC) more power in its revised structural separation undertaking (SSU), putting the watchdog on equal footing with an Independent Telecommunications Adjudicator (ITA).
The SSU, which details how Telstra would structurally separate its wholesale and retail arms, is a crucial part of the telco’s $11 deal with NBN Co.
The agreement was met with shareholder approval last month but the ACCC was dissatisfied with the original SSU and has asked Telstra to submit a revised version.
An Independent Telecommunications Adjudicator (ITA) was first suggested by Telstra in its submission to the NBN: Regulatory Reform for 21st Century Broadband discussion paper in 2009.
It was proposed as an independent body in which wholesale access seekers could voice their concerns before approaching the ACCC.
Telstra’s original SSU, it committed itself to establishing an ITA as part of an “accelerated investigation process” for wholesale customer pricing complaints.
But the fact Telstra would appoint members of the ITA board, even with ACCC approval, rubbed many of the telco’s competitors the wrong way.
In its structural separation undertaking (SSU) update to shareholders, Telstra suggested reducing the ITA’s role in wholesale customer dispute processes. The telco stressed that suggestions made in the update document are not set in stone and are “subject to further consideration”.
“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 said in its SSU update.
This means wholesale customers could choose whether to refer disputes to the ACCC or to the ITA.
“In effect, if a wholesale customer has concerns about the independence of the ITA, this would make the ACCC available as an alternative,” Telstra said.
ACCC would also be given more power to set pricing for Telstra wholesale copper products as well as give directors to Telstra to change internal systems and processes.
Telstra is eager to get a revised SSU settled and submitted to the ACCC as soon as possible.