New communications consumer code hits home

08 03 2013

The 2012 Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code was registered in September 2012, but thanks to a six month ramp up period it’s just starting to seriously impact Australian telco retailers.

The TCP Code, as it’s widely known, introduces a range of reforms designed to improve consumer satisfaction with telecommunications services.  From 27 October last year, it mandated a form of unit pricing in advertising some telco plans, inspired by the unit pricing scheme that has applied in larger supermarkets for some years.

Telcos offering so-called ‘included value’ mobile plans are obliged to inform potential customers of the price of a two minute mobile call, the cost of an SMS and how much of their included value will be consumed by using a megabyte of data.  ‘Included value’ plans are those where a monthly fee buys a higher amount of credit that can be applied to calls, messages or data usage.

Since 1 March 2013, it has also been obligatory for telcos to provide would-be customers with a two page summary of the key features and pricing of a plan, before they commit to buy.  These ‘Critical Information Summaries’ are designed to provide clearer and more standardised information to customers, and to simplify the task of comparing various plans that may be under consideration.

Those are just two out of dozens of requirements imposed by the Code, and a newly created independent body called Communications Compliance has been charged with monitoring telco compliance with the new rules.  By 1 April 2013, every telco that is subject to the TCP Code (and there may be as many of 1,000 of them) must file statements with the Code monitor attesting their Code compliance and listing the website location of the large amount of consumer and customer information that is now required to be provided on telco websites.

Standing behind the Code monitor is the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) as Code enforcer, with a range of sanctions available to it where education and encouragement fail to secure industry compliance.  The ‘big stick’ here is a potential Federal Court penalty of $250,00 for failing to heed an ACMA direction to comply with the Code.

Cooper Mills is recognised as the premier legal adviser the 2012 Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, and we have even established a dedicated website to support the industry’s compliance effort.  Our innovative TCP Code Compliance Shop provides a rich set of expert compliance tools at a fraction of the cost of traditional legal advice.

Cooper Mills’ website also offers news, analysis and commentary about the TCP Code, frequently updated.

The ACMA is already actively auditing telco compliance with the Code, even before the industry is due to file its compliance materials with Communications Compliance.  We expect a busy time for telcos in the next few months as compliance laggards are identified and allowed short timeframes to get their business in order.

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