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Fair Internet Pricing a victory for consumer fight-back

Media Release – Tuesday 5 November 2013

Fair Internet Pricing a victory for consumer fight-back

The Commerce Commission’s final decision to put a ceiling on the pricing for the most basic level of internet access will help ensure it doesn’t become unaffordable for students struggling under financial pressure, says the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

“We believe the rigorous stand taken by the Coalition for Fair Internet Pricing – with leadership from Consumer NZ, InternetNZ and the Telecommunication Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) – has delivered a clear message that the independence and regulatory oversight provided in such matters by an agency like the Commerce Commission should never be disregarded let alone bypassed,” says NZUSA President Pete Hodkinson.

“We agree with TUANZ that copper and fibre are not the same product, any more than black and white television is the same as colour. Put simply no one should be paying more to get less - least of all students who are struggling to pay rising fees or meet daily living costs, and especially the one in six that studies reveal are facing absolute financial distress.

“The fact that the Commission’s final unbundled bit-stream access (UBA) price is going to be around half the current monthly charge – at $10.92 (still the high end of the new benchmark) rather than the current $21.46 – just goes to confirm the scale of unjustifiable profits being made, and why this was characterised as a Copper Tax.

“NZUSA became a supporter of the Coalition as a way to signal that price gouging in all sectors has to stop,” says Hodkinson.

“We see some parallels with the tertiary education sector, where, if there is a funding gap the government looks the other way by unfairly pushing costs on to students, while totally ignoring the public good benefits of tertiary education.

“Students and young people are particularly dependent on fair and affordable internet pricing. We are also the ones who have repeatedly heard promises from this current government that the future will consist of high-speed fibre options.

“Given Chorus already hold an effective monopoly over this it would be very rich of them to suggest, as they have today, that they should be allowed to wriggle out of a fairer pricing regime for all New Zealanders, a positive change that won’t even take effect until this time next year.

“Chorus suggests the Commerce Commission decision is a disaster for them, whereas we would suggest that unfair pricing like this that impacts on students and young people in New Zealand is a much bigger disaster, and that there should be a whole host of similar reviews – from an inquiry into a supermarket duopoly that imposes unfair food prices through to calling out private landlords who gouge profits from unfit housing”.

ENDS


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