DEVELOPMENT OF CONSUMER CODES

How consumer codes operate within the Australian telecommunications industry

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.

THE TCP CODE

The TCP Code C628:2019 is a code of conduct for the Telecommunications Industry in Australia. It provides community safeguards in the areas of sales, service and contracts, billing, credit and debt management and changing suppliers. It also sets out a framework of code compliance and monitoring. It applies to all Carriage Service Providers in Australia and is enforceable by the ACMA.

2019 Code Revision

In 2019, The TCP Code underwent a substantive review, resulting in a number of enhanced obligations on providers. The TCP Code C628:2019 commenced on 1 August 2019. Prior to that date, Suppliers were obliged to comply with the previous version of the Code (C628:2015 (Incorporating Variation 1/2018).

The Code was revised by a working committee, with representatives from industry, consumers, government, and regulators, and was registered by the ACMA on 1 July 2019.

The revisions include a range of increased consumer protections, including in selling practices, credit assessment, financial hardship, and assistance for vulnerable consumers, in addition to revisions for clarity and updating provisions to accurately reflect the marketplace.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

ACMA

The ACMA is the Australian Government statutory authority responsible for the regulation of communications and media. If a service provider breaks the rules in the TCP Code, CommCom may refer them to the ACMA who will investigate and take action.

CommCom and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding detailing how the two organisations will interact efficiently, exchange information and cooperate to identify any potential industry-wide systemic issues.

ACCC

The ACCC is an independent authority of the Australian Government responsible for the regulation of competition and national consumer law.

CommCom and the ACCC have entered into a five year Memorandum of Understanding, which allows the sharing of information related to industry compliance with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code and the Australian Consumer Law.

TIO

The Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is an independent organisation who offer a free-to-use dispute resolution service. Their role is to sort out telephone complaints and disputes between consumers and their telecommunications service provider in a quick and fair manner.

CommCom and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding. The MoU describes the processes for engagement and information sharing between the two organisations in relation to the TCP Code.

ACCAN

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation representing individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit groups as consumers of communications products and services.

Communications Alliance

Communications Alliance was formed to provide a unified voice for the Australian communications industry and to lead it into the next generation of converging networks, technologies and services. They offer a forum for the industry to make coherent and constructive contributions to policy development and debate.