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28 March 2019

Between 20 February 2019 and 17 April 2019, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (“IMDA”) is conducting a public consultation on a proposed converged competition code (“Converged Code”) for the telecommunication and media markets.

Currently, IMDA regulates competition and market related matters through the Code of Practice for Competition in the Provision of Telecom Services 2012 (also known as the Telecom Competition Code, or “TCC”) and the Code of Practice for Market Conduct in the Provision of Media Services (also known as the Media Market Conduct Code, or “MMCC”). As the TCC and the MMCC are similar in various aspects (e.g. competition rules, acquisition and consolidation framework, consumer protection, etc.), IMDA seeks to harmonise the provisions that are substantively similar in effect and align the drafting of these provisions in the Converged Code.

The Converged Code will streamline requirements to promote competition, encourage market innovation, better protect consumers’ interest and keep pace with the fast-changing digital landscape. The objective is to ensure that a consistent regulatory framework is applied across both the telecommunication and media markets to the extent possible.

Feedback received from this first public consultation will be reviewed and incorporated into the policy proposals where accepted by IMDA. IMDA will then conduct a second public consultation to seek comments on the actual drafting of the proposed Converged Code. IMDA targets to launch the second public consultation around end of 2019 or in early 2020.

Key policy proposals

IMDA proposes the following key policy changes:

  • Adopt “market-by-market” approach to dominance classification: IMDA is proposing that dominant licensees will not be presumed dominant for new services offered in new markets and hence will not be subject to the dominant licensee regulatory obligations. 
  • Reduce tariff filing obligation for dominant licensees: IMDA proposes that dominant licensees will no longer need to seek IMDA’s approval of tariffs for retail services. 
  • Relax interconnection requirements on dominant licensees: One of the proposals is to remove network elements and services and support facilities from the list of legacy services a dominant licensee is required to offer. 
  • Introduce requirement for minimum billing information: IMDA proposes to enhance information transparency by requiring a list of minimum billing information to be included in end users’ bills. 
  • Require all telecommunication and Pay TV service providers to provide a Critical Information Summary: One key proposal is to require all telecommunication licensees to provide a Critical Information Summary which summarises the key terms and conditions to consumers at the point of subscription.
  • Prohibit detrimental mid-contract changes: It is proposed that all licensees will be prohibited from making any disadvantageous mid-contract changes such as price increase or reduction of service features during the contract term.
  • Harmonise and adopt an appropriate market share threshold for the presumption of significant market power (“SMP”): Currently, both the media and telecommunication regulatory regimes provide for a rebuttable presumption that an entity has SMP if its market share for the relevant market is in excess of a certain percentage (“SMP presumption threshold”). IMDA considers that there is merit in adopting a common SMP presumption threshold across both industries under the Converged Code. In this regard, IMDA is considering 50% as a possible common threshold for both markets.
  • More detailed provisions on abuse of dominant position and common rules on unfair methods of competition: IMDA proposes to align the positions relating to unreasonable bundling and specific unfair methods of competition for both the media and telecommunication markets. 
  • Change interconnection charging regime for fixed call termination: IMDA proposes to harmonise the voice termination regime and change the interconnection charging regime for fixed voice termination from “calling party pays” to “bill-and-keep”. This means that no termination charge will be paid for calls terminating in fixed telecommunication networks. 

Competition in a digital economy

 IMDA is also seeking early feedback on the forward looking market developments in relation to the developing digital economy, and the potential impact these developments may have on competition policy and regulation in general. IMDA is not proposing any changes to the Converged Code based on these developments at this stage but finds it important to monitor and seek feedback on how these developments may affect the telecommunication and media markets and whether existing regulatory frameworks can be dynamically applied within the context of the larger economic shifts and the broader regulatory environment going forward.

Reference materials

The following materials are available on the IMDA website www.imda.gov.sg:

 

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