The ACCC has three key responsibilities in the regulation of postal services. We assess notifications of proposed price increases for Australia Post’s reserved 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.
Historically, prices surveillance applied to all letter services reserved to Australia Post under Division 2 of Part 3 of the Australian Postal Corporation Act 1989.
The current declaration covers the existing ‘ordinary’ letter service. Once Australia Post introduces its two-speed letter service, prices surveillance will be limited to ‘ordinary’ letters carried at the regular timetable (including the basic postage rate), and potentially ‘ordinary’ letter services carried at the priority timetable. The declaration does not cover bulk business letter services.
Under the current declaration, Australia Post is required to notify the ACCC if it proposes to:
- increase the price of a declared (and therefore notified) service, or
- introduce a new service that would fall within the definition of declared (notified) services, or
- provide an existing declared (notified) service under terms and conditions that are not the same or substantially similar to the existing terms and conditions of that service.
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.