New Zealand Law Society - Telecommunications bill increases regulatory oversight

Telecommunications bill increases regulatory oversight

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Communications Minister Simon Bridges has introduced the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Bill to Parliament.

The bill amends the Telecommunications Act 2001 to introduce a new regulatory framework for fibre fixed line access services, to remove copper fixed line access service regulation, to streamline regulatory processes to enable a rapid response to any competition problems, and to provide more regulatory oversight of retail service quality.

The new regulatory framework has been designed following a statutory review required by section 157AA of the Act. This was conducted between 2012 and 2017. Consultation took place through a series of discussion documents, options papers, and final policy design papers.

The bill introduces a number of other changes that are aimed at lifting consumer service quality in the telecommunications sector. This includes: requiring the Commerce Commission to regularly report on retail service quality in a more accessible way and to review the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Service regularly to ensure it is working effectively.

The Commission will also be able to make codes that address retail service quality, if the industry fails to develop industry-led codes that are adequate.

Mr Bridges says the changes are intended to enhance industry responsiveness to consumer needs.

“We need to ensure the regulatory settings continue to be fit-for-purpose and support the evolution of this fast-moving sector. The Bill supports the shift to fibre as the technology of choice among an increasing number of consumers, by establishing a stable and predictable framework for regulating fibre and by removing copper regulation from 2020.

“To ensure that consumers are protected, copper will continue to be regulated outside of fibre coverage areas. Safeguards will make sure that customers do not lose their copper landline or broadband unless there is an alternative service available at a comparable price and service level,” he says.