ACMA voices concerns over revised TCP Code

Sections covering advertising, pre-sale information and expenditure tools “less than impressive” according to ACMA chairman

ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman.

ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman.

The Australia Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) may reject the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code submitted by industry body, the Communications Alliance, because of issues with sections covering advertising, pre-sale information and expenditure tools.

Speaking at the CommsDay Summit, ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said the sections were central to customers' engagement with a telco whether they were selecting a product or examining their billing usage and the changes made to these areas by the Communications Alliance were "less than impressive."

“I should make clear that ACMA has not made any decision about whether to register the proposed revised code,” he said. “But these parts of the code do not shape up against the terms of the formal section 125 deficiency notice with which the Communications Alliance was presented.”

ACMA launched its <i>Reconnecting the Customer</i> enquiry in 2010 to address customer complaints within the telecommunications industry. Following the enquiry, it issued the Communications Alliance with a formal notice under section 125 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 to revise the TCP Code.

The new code includes provisions such as regular customer usage notifications for voice, SMS and data services, stronger controls on telecommunications product advertising, a compliance monitoring body and a unit-pricing regime in advertisements. It was submitted on February 7 for consideration and registration by ACMA.

Chapman added that the Communications Alliance had made a “good fist” at meeting the principles of the Australian standard and this aspect of the code -- if registered -- would make a valuable contribution to better customer satisfaction in the event of a problem.

Last month a new study from Macquarie University, found billing issues, or 'bill shock', hit nearly half of Australian mobile phone users in 2011.

According to the State of the Mobile Nation report, 45 per cent of mobile phone users suffered bill shock last year, with the median overspend $40 per bill.

The main reasons for surprise were voice calls at 54 per cent, followed by data usage at 20 per cent and SMS at 18 per cent.

Late last year, telco consumer advocacy body ,the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCAN), argued that Australian consumers were failing to understand ISP and mobile offerings on the market, as regulatory bodies have yet to consider telecommunications as an essential service.

ACMA is considering the TCP Code at its Authority meeting on 19 April. If the authority is dissatisfied with the new code, it has the right to reject its own standard.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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