The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), has revised the telecommunications consumer protections code (TCP Code). The revised code acts to streamline elements of the ways that information is provided to telecommunications consumers and removes some areas of duplication in the previous code.
Communications Alliance welcomed the registration of a revised code, while the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is putting industry on notice that it will be closely watching the impact of revisions made to the code.
“The TCP code provides significant consumer protections. ACCAN will be keeping a close eye on how the industry performs under the revised code. We want to see the debate shift from just being about deregulation to the more nuanced ‘better regulation.’ If we don’t then consumers will begin to suffer due to reductions in community safeguards,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said.
Corbin claimed in a backward step, changes introduced today mean telcos will no longer be obliged to publish important information on their websites, such as coverage maps, international roaming information and contact details for financial hardship staff.
“It’s now up to the telco how they provide this information, and we are concerned that this will particularly harm consumers who face accessibility barriers, and are reliant on Web-based information. It may affect consumers’ ability to make informed purchasing decisions.”
While consumer protections under the Australian Consumer Law and Disability Discrimination Act still apply, ACCAN maintains that the code has been an effective tool in driving good industry practice.
“The previous version of the code only finished being rolled out in 2014. Since it was introduced over three years ago, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaints have fallen by 36 per cent to the lowest point in seven years.
“With complaint numbers continuing to drop, clearly it’s not the right time to be reducing the obligations to provide clear accessible information,” Corbin mentioned.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, thanked the ACMA staff and Authority for their constructive efforts throughout the revision of the code.
“Industry had hoped to achieve even more substantial reform as part of this revision but the co-regulatory process necessarily involves a reflection of the priorities of a range of stakeholders including consumers, regulators, industry and others,” he said.
But, the industry consultation on chapter nine of the TCP Code, which relates to compliance obligations under the code and the role of the compliance monitoring body Communications Compliance, is still ongoing.
ACCAN said, in a statement, that it is participating in this process to ensure that an effective compliance regime will continue to guide industry and drive down complaints.