Development of consumer codes
Section 112 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) (the Act) outlines the Parliament’s intention that industry bodies or associations develop codes that deal with certain matters of the telecommunications industry. Section 113 of the Act provides examples of those matters.
When a code is being developed under this co-regulatory regime, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has to be satisfied that certain conditions have been met before it can register the code. Those are for example:
- the relevant parties have been consulted (e.g. the general public, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), industry and consumer bodies) and that consideration has been given to any submissions that have been made, and
- the code provides adequate community safeguards or, where the code does not deal with matters relevant to the community, adequately deals with the matters covered.
Once a code is registered by the ACMA it becomes effective. The ACMA can then enforce compliance with the code.
Development of the TCP Code 2012
The Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code 2012 was developed by Communications Alliance Ltd, the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia, after consultation with regulators, consumer groups and other stakeholders. The development of the Code coincided with the ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer public inquiry (in 2012) and many of the recommendations made in the inquiry were incorporated in the Code. The Code was registered by the ACMA on 1 September 2012. The TCP Code 2012 replaces the TCP Code 2007.
TCP Code 2015
In 2015 Chapters 4-8 of the TCP Code were revised by Communications Alliance to streamline obligations relating to the provision of customer information. This revision was then followed by a variation to the TCP Code Compliance Framework contained in Chapter 9 and as overseen by Communications Compliance. Under the new Chapter 9 arrangements:
- in a new ‘once-only’ requirement, all telecommunications providers that offer services to residential and small business customers, irrespective of whether they have previously lodged documents with CommCom will need to register their details with Communications Alliance Ltd (CA) by 3 May 2016;
- smaller providers—those with fewer than 3,000 services in operation (SIO)— will need to lodge annual compliance documents with CommCom by 29 April 2016 or indicate they will defer lodgement to a second registration period ending 1 September 2016;
- larger providers—with 3,000 or more SIOs—will be required to lodge annual compliance documents by 1 September each year;
- compliance documentation, which is required to be completed by all providers covered by the TCP Code, has been streamlined;
- providers will now be able to attest to ‘partial compliance’ with the TCP Code on condition they also provide Compliance Action Plans (CAPs) to CommCom indicating the areas of non-compliance and plans for achieving full compliance; and
- greater clarity on timeframes for providers to respond to any compliance requests from CommCom.