The ACCC has three key responsibilities in the regulation of postal services. We assess notifications of proposed price increases for Australia Post’s reserved ordinary letter services, inquire into disputes about the terms and conditions on which Australia Post provides bulk mail services, and administer the record keeping rule for Australia Post.
The price notification provisions are contained in Part VIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and apply only to ‘notified services’ and ‘declared persons’.
The object of these provisions is to have prices surveillance applied only to those markets where, in the view of the minister, competitive pressures are not sufficient to achieve efficient prices and protect consumers.
The current declaration covers reserved ordinary letters carried at the regular timetable (including the basic postage rate) and potentially ordinary letters carried at the priority timetable if the price is proposed to be greater than 150 per cent of the equivalent reserved ordinary letter price. The declaration does not cover bulk business letter services.
Where Australia Post proposes to increase the price of a notified letter service or introduce a new notified letter service, it must notify the ACCC of the proposal. The ACCC must then consider the proposal in accordance with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and then notify Australia Post on whether it objects to the proposed price increase.
The ACCC does not have the role of approving the proposed price increase.
In addition to the ACCC’s assessment, Australia Post must give written notice to the Minister for Communications of proposed price increases for ordinary letters. Australia Post may increase the prices only if the Minister does not disapprove the proposed increase.
Regulations made under section 32B of the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989 allow the ACCC to inquire into disputes about the terms and conditions, including price of access to Australia Post’s bulk mail services.
The intent of these provisions, as stated in the explanatory memorandum to the Postal Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2003, is to ensure that ‘persons who use bulk mail services receive fair and reasonable terms and conditions in relation to the supply of those services’.
The Postal Services Legislation Amendment Act 2004 introduced measures that allow the ACCC to require Australia Post to keep records and to provide those records to the ACCC. This information is used to enable the ACCC to fulfill its responsibilities in relation to postal services.
One of the purposes of the record keeping rule is to enable the ACCC to assess whether Australia Post was unfairly competing by using revenue from its reserved services to cross-subsidise the services it provides in competition with other businesses.
In the past the ACCC issued a report each year of its analysis of Australia Post's regulatory accounts for the preceding year, to determine whether Australia Post has used revenue from its reserved services to cross-subsidise its non-reserved services. Reserved services are services for which Australia Post has a statutory monopoly; non-reserved services are services it provides in competition with other businesses. This report has been discontinued from 2015-2016.
For enquiries relating to the ACCC's role in postal services, please contact our Infocentre.