The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will formally consider the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code at a meeting tomorrow, but has indicated that more work needs to be done to meet its expectations.
The code was revised by the Communications Alliance, which represents more than 100 telecommunications businesses, after receiving a plague of customer complaints that concerned the communications watchdog. The revised version aims to simplify telecommunications advertising, mobile plans and bills, and to provide more information in order to prevent so-called "bill shock". It was submitted to the ACMA in February, after two years of development.
Speaking at the Communications Alliance 2012 Summit in Sydney this morning, ACMA chair Chris Chapman said that the revised code has improved significantly over the two years following the release of the ACMA's "Reconnecting the Customer" report, particularly around complaints handling. He said that the ACMA would consider the revised code at a meeting tomorrow, but that his personal view is that there are still a number of improvements that need to be made.
"My view, without pre-empting the decision of the authority, [is that] the [Communications Alliance] has made a good fist at meeting the principles of the Australian standard," he said.
"However, the change in the remaining three big ticket areas that the ACMA formally required [the Communications Alliance] to improve — and they were advertising, the presale information and the expenditure usage tools — has been to date less impressive."
These parts of the code, he said, do not shape up against the terms that were presented to the Communications Alliance by the ACMA.
At the summit yesterday, Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said that since lodging the TCP code in February, the alliance has been approached to make even more changes to the code to comply with the wishes of the ACMA and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and is in the process of again redrafting the code.
Stanton said that the code already includes a number of the requirements that the ACMA wants, such as displaying unit pricing in broadband plan ads and increasing the size of critical plan information, and — on the request of the ACCC — the code now also has a name-and-shame clause that will out telcos that have breached the code.
Stanton said that the alliance wants to have industry complying with the new code by 1 July, planning an official launch of the code for 1 August.
Following the additional changes, Stanton said that the ACMA should have no problem with the code.
"There is now no rational reason why we shouldn't be able to get the code registered by the ACMA," he said.
"It is a very, very good document."