The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is pushing for a new principles-based regulation regime which aims to better protect consumers when dealing with telecommunication providers.
The consumer advocacy group teamed up with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to publish a report detailing the benefits of a principles-based approach to regulating how telcos deal with customers.
The report was motivated by the bad reputation of the telco industry in providing customer service and is part of the Telecommunications Protection Code (TPC) review managed by telecommunications industry group, Communications Alliance.
Customer complaints against telcos continues to increase exponentially, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
Principle-based regulation essentially means tabling a list of outcomes telcos should strive to achieve as opposed to a rule-based approach specific steps telcos should follow.
Some of the principles ACCAN recommended include:
- Businesses must treat their customers fairly.
- Businesses must have appropriate policies and practices in place to assist customers who are disadvantaged or vulnerable.
- For transparency and accountability, businesses will have their compliance with the principles-based regulation reviewed and reported by an external auditor.
“The current self-regulatory system, with its excessive rules, exemptions and exclusions, has failed,” ACCAN chief executive, Teresa Corbin, said. “Without a new approach to protection, consumers are going to be left with providers that still don’t care and won’t change. Smart regulation is about making the market work for consumers.”
ACCAN’s recommendation will ensure telcos focus on good consumer outcomes and understand their responsibilities, she said.
Communications Alliance, which published the current TPC, rejected ACCAN’s principles-based code provisions.
The industry group argued the principles proposed by ACCAN are too vague to service providers and regulators.
“The risk is that switching to a code that provides only principles for guidance will result in ambiguity and confusion among service providers and consumers alike, as well as inconsistency in the enforcement of the code,” Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said in a statement.
ACCAN was not available for a response at the time of publication.