ACCC to disclose telco data

The accounting and market indicator information of Australia's telecommunications carriers is soon to go public, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announcing that it will publish information currently reported to it on a regular basis.

The ACCC issued its draft report on the Disclosure of Telecommunications Information on August 29, arguing there was a lack of quality data available on the telco market.

The ACCC wants telcos to report information on their operations every six months, which it will then make public. It believes the availability of such information will make it easier for customers, stakeholders and analysts to make informed decisions about market entry.

According to ACCC assistant director of telecommunications Warwick Davis, market entrants or stakeholders currently have to rely on secondary sources such as consultants, which "don't offer precise data".

"This will provide more ammunition for parties in the industry in the case of launching a complaint about, say, anti-competitive conduct," Davis said.

But despite the apparent benefits of the new reports, several telcos are concerned the information may mislead the stock market. "Telstra's concern is that we may have to give information to the ACCC before the Australian Stock Exchange," said a Telstra spokesman.

Optus also questioned why it should be included in the regular reports, and made repeated requests for the coming requirements to apply only to Telstra.

"Optus expressed the view that disclosure [of information] would only promote competition to the extent it focused on firms with market power," the draft report said. "Optus only supported the release of information on Telstra's business, to address information asymmetry and to establish whether Telstra retains a dominant market position. It argued that the release of information on other carriers would provide commercial advantage to Telstra."

The report said, however, that the ACCC "does not concur".

Telstra's spokesman said: "Everyone other than Telstra wants that. The publication of this information should be symmetrical, and encompass all carriers."

The ACCC expects carriers, industry stakeholders and consumer groups to comment on the draft report by September 27. Davis said it will then produce the final report in a matter of weeks.

The draft report does not propose to disclose cost information on services delivered using Telstra's "local loop" infrastructure, which is the subject of the Productivity Commission's current inquiry into telecommunications regulation.