‘Implications’: ACCC chair Rod Sims’ big Telstra concern

Ashleigh GleesonNCA NewsWire
Mr Sims raised a concern about ‘greenwashing’. NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles
Camera IconMr Sims raised a concern about ‘greenwashing’. NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles Credit: News Corp Australia

The outgoing boss of Australia’s competition regulator has listed any “implications” from Telstra and TPG’s major network sharing deal last month as one of its top priorities to investigate in the next financial year.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims singled out the surprise tie-up between the two telcos during his last enforcement and compliance policy speech on Thursday, saying it was “complex” and would be looked at closely.

Mr Sims revealed the major issues the ACCC would focus on in 2022-23 at the event in Sydney hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

He is due to the step down from his role after 11 years at the helm.

One major concern he noted was “greenwashing” – where lies are told about how environmentally friendly a product or service is.

Camera IconOutgoing chair of the ACCC Rod Sims has revealed what the regulator will focus on in 2022-23. NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles Credit: News Corp Australia

“Consumers are unable to determine whether the claim made is true or not, so it is our role to make sure they are true,” Mr Sims said.

“Many businesses also incur the costs of genuine, environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, but they’ll face unfair competition if they’re competing against people who make the claims when they’re not true.”

Mr Sims said the regulator was also becoming increasingly concerned about “dark patterns” in online advertising and marketing.

“This is techniques where you’ve got false scarcity reminders, low stock warnings, false sales or countdown timers,” he said.

He said it also might involve targeted advertising using a consumer’s own data or preselected add-ons that end up in people’s online shopping carts when they go to pay.

Mr Sims also said issues with global supply chains that had been knocked about by the Covid-19 pandemic might be exploited for profit.

“We are concerned they’re going to get taken, or have been taken advantage of, to raise costs and bring about illegal co-ordination,” he said.

He later brought up his concern about Telstra’s merger with TPG, saying the ACCC would target regional telecommunications over the next financial year.

Under the 10-year network sharing deal announced last month, TPG will gain access to about 3700 of Telstra’s mobile network assets, increasing its 4G coverage from around 96 per cent to 98.8 per cent of the population – just eclipsing Optus, Australia’s second largest telco.

It will allow TPG – which merged with Vodafone in 2020 – to decommission 725 mobile sites, reducing costs, and also promises to broaden TPG’s 5G coverage, including in urban fringe areas.

Camera IconMr Sims raised a concern about ‘greenwashing’. NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles Credit: News Corp Australia

”I have to mention the recent agreement between TPG and Telstra to share their regional mobile infrastructure. We are going to have to examine that extremely closely,” Mr Sims said.

“To look at its implications for mobile pricing and mobile coverage.

“It’s a really complex matter, so that’s going to be a key item on the ACCC agenda in the coming year.”

Mr Sims unsuccessfully fought against the merger between Vodafone and TPG in the Federal Court.

He had previously raised concerns that the Telstra-TPG deal would put the telco in the same league as its competitors and that could give it the option to raise prices, meaning people have less cheaper options.

Originally published as ‘Implications’: ACCC chair Rod Sims’ big Telstra concern

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