More powers for the regulator?

13 Oct 2004

Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD has hinted that more powers may be on the way for the telecoms industry regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

There has been a perception that the regulator’s office lacks power in terms of placing large fines on errant communications firms on issues such as aggressive customer win-back strategies or delays in rolling out much needed telecoms and internet services for businesses and consumers.

For entrepreneurs competing against established industry players in this sector, ComReg’s perceived lack of clout has caused considerable consternation. For example, under existing rules ComReg can only fine an operator a few thousand euros – a drop in the ocean for well-funded telecom players – instead of large fine of the order of €1m that would dissuade players from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

However, at this morning’s Serving the E-Consumer conference Dempsey emphasised the need for proper regulation of the telecoms sector. “I am seeking to strengthen the role of the regulator. This is necessary in order to create a competitive marketplace,” he said.

The minister also warned that the Government should only intervene when ultimately necessary.

“We are working at positioning the economy to survive and thrive by encouraging the development of a more competitive economic marketplace. If the Government intervenes in the marketplace, it should only be when necessary to do so.

“Our objective at all times is to grow the market to the benefit of the economy as a whole and in the long-term interests of Irish society and economy. The industry has a choice: work in partnership with the Government or stand apart. There are many obstacles in the market but the reality is that regulation is desirable and necessary for the public good.”

By John Kennedy