Telecommunications Customer Code Before ACMA

The Communications Alliance yesterday approved its revised telecommunications consumer protection code (TCP code), and has submitted it to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The new TCP code is intended to both clarify and simplify advertising, mobile plans and bills across all carriers, allowing more realistic comparisons between service types and offerings. The Communications Alliance is predictably talking up its amendments, singing rousing hosannas to the effect that 'TCP Code Heralds New Era of Improved Service'.

The latest (draft) TCP code features the following highlights:

  • Carriers must be more careful in using terms such as 'infinite' and 'cap' in their advertising, but only for new products. For new products, they will have to be more creative in dreaming up misleading terms, and more circumspect in deploying them. I am certain they will rise to the challenge.
  • Large print advertisements for mobile plans must include the cost of making a two-minute standard national call on a mobile, the cost of a single SMS, and the cost for using 1 megabyte of data. I foresee an increase in small-print advertising, where no such stipulations exist.
  • Carriers must provide a summary of offer to customers before purchase, which is to be called 'Plan Essentials'. This is intended to encourage easy comparison between completing plans and carriers, and will include unit-pricing.
  • Online management tools must be improved - perhaps even to the point where they are usable - and must now include voice and SMS usage in addition to data. This is intended to help customers avoid bill shock. However, the carriers have been excused from having to implement 'real-time' monitoring tools, since this would be too hard for smaller telcos.
  • Carriers must be explicit in promoting the TIO as an alternate avenue for complaints-resolution. It's hard to know what to make of this requirement, since telcos are already supposed to do this. I suppose now they have to really mean it.

Please go here for the full Communications Alliance media release, in which it is claimed that industry-based codes are superior for regulation, since they are created by the leaders in the field, notwithstanding that these leaders are the ones responsible for the way things are now. There is no mention of the penalties for non-compliance.

If ACMA is dissatisfied with the revised code, it retains the option of enforcing these rules via regulation.