Issue No 5: 4 March 2019



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Telco Providers Pushing for Stronger Consumer Protections in Industry Code

The telecommunications industry is pushing for stricter rules around credit assessment and selling practices to provide greater protection for Australian communications consumers.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton highlighted the importance of the new measures following the release of a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) looking at industry sales practices and consumer debt.

The upgraded safeguards are contained in a revised and strengthened version of the enforceable Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Industry Code, recently submitted to the industry regulator, the ACMA, for registration. The TIO has participated in the Code revision process.

The revised TCP Code addresses a number of the issues where the TIO has recommended additional industry action. It requires, for example:

  • stronger rules around responsible selling practices, including that suppliers must ensure – including via disciplinary sanctions – that sales representatives promote and sell products in a fair, transparent and accurate manner;
  • tighter control on credit provision, including spending thresholds, beyond which suppliers must conduct a thorough credit assessment (credit assessment issues accounted for only 0.1% of all complaints received by the TIO during 2017-18);
  • upgraded arrangements to assist consumers in financial hardship; and
  • greater transparency around the relative customer service performance of suppliers.
Mr Stanton welcomed the feedback provided by the TIO, which he said had worked constructively with a number of providers to address individual consumer circumstances.

“Active engagement by the Ombudsman and responsive action by suppliers are hallmarks of an effective co-regulatory system, which is bearing positive results in the telecommunications sector.”

The rate of consumer complaints to the TIO, for example, fell further in the most recent quarter – generating the best results seen since 2015.
Complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) as a proportion of services in operation (SIO) for service providers who participate in the Communications Alliance Complaints-in-Context report decreased to 6.0 complaints per 10,000 services for the period October – December 2018. The full report, including participant ratios, can be found here.

This was now the fourth consecutive quarter in which the ratio has decreased – indicating that focussed efforts by service providers has improved service delivery and the overall customer experience. It is the best ratio since October – December 2015.

Overall complaints to the TIO have also fallen steadily since February 2018 – the TIO Annual Report showed that complaints dropped by 17.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2017/18.

Submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee on the Consumer Data Right Bill

Communications Alliance has made a submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee relation to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill 2019 (Bill) as introduced into the House of Representatives on 13 February 2019.

The submission reiterates some of the concerns raised in our earlier submissions which relate to 

  • the rushed consultation surrounding the development of the legislation and its proposed implementation timeframes for Open Banking (and therefore subsequent sectors);
  • the risk of imposing a CDR regime with a distinct ‘banking flavour’ on the telecommunications sector noting that the telecommunications industry already achieves the declared objectives through already existing legal and technical mechanisms and, where necessary at all, those mechanisms ought to be leveraged prior to considering a new (API-based) CDR regime;
  • the inclusion of value-added data into the range of data sets that can be declared as being part of the CDR regime and the far-reaching negative consequences on investments into data analytics that the mere possibility of the inclusion of such data is likely to have for all sectors of the economy;
  • the extension of the CDR regime to large business customers which stands in direct contrast to the (accepted) recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s report on Data Availability and Use;
  • the creation of a very complex dual privacy regime that fails to address the problem that the same data can move in and out of the CDR regime over time;
  • the likely underestimation of the threats to the privacy of participating users (after the application of risk mitigation measures) that stem from malicious and criminal activity such as hacking, phishing and misuse of data by third parties.

Proposed Updates by the ACMA to Class Licensing Arrangements Supporting 5G

The Communications Alliance Satellite Service Working Group (SSWG) has recently provided a response to the ACMA consultation on proposed updates to class licensing arrangements supporting 5G and other technology innovations. The satellite industry is supportive of arrangements to usher in 5G and is keen to see that satellite communications take up a relevant complementary role. The paper recommends that other ongoing initiatives and innovations in the satellite industry need to be taken into consideration by the ACMA, particularly where there are satellite frequency allocations.

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