Stronger Industry Code Aims to Benefit and Better Protect Australia's Telecommunications Consumers
The Australian telecommunications sector has developed an extensive suite of stronger and enforceable consumer protections as part of an upgraded industry Code, scheduled to take effect in 2024.
Members of the Communications Alliance drafting group have met more than 70 times in recent months to produce the draft reform package, which was submitted to the industry regulator today, in advance of an accelerated regulatory deadline.
The planned improvements to the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code will benefit consumer and small business telco consumers across the breadth of their customer experience, including through:
- requirements for improved customer service;
- stronger protections against poor selling practices;
- better safeguards for vulnerable customers and those at risk of domestic and family violence;
- greater flexibility around bill payment;
- improved credit assessment processes; and
- stronger reporting and risk management requirements on service providers.
The regulator - the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - had brought forward, to 15 December, the timing for industry to come up with definitive agreed positions on how to further strengthen the TCP Code.
The Code in its various iterations has been in place since 2006, has been regularly revised by industry and through public consultation, and is registered and enforced by the ACMA. It has helped to significantly drive down the volume of customer complaints about the performance of service providers, particularly during recent years.
Communications Alliance today submitted to the ACMA a package of proposed reforms that draws on deep industry expertise and – most importantly – the inputs and suggestions received from a wide range of stakeholders, including government, regulators and the telco consumer representative group, ACCAN, that have been actively engaged in the revision process during the past year.
The package is publicly available here.
If the go-ahead for the next phase is received from the ACMA, the reform package will be fully developed into a revised draft TCP Code, that will be subject to a further public consultation process before being submitted to the ACMA for consideration for registration.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, paid tribute to the stakeholders that have helped shape the reforms and to the extraordinary efforts of the industry drafting committee that has pulled together the suite of improvements.
The revised TCP Code is also being restructured to provide a stronger and clearer focus on measurements of success and accessibility, Mr Stanton said.
“If the latest version of the Code comes into effect, following registration by the ACMA, it will generate even better outcomes for Australian telco consumers, which is also ultimately to the benefit of industry.”
Mr Stanton acknowledged that – as is usual at this stage of the code revision process
- there remain several issues where industry and stakeholders have not yet achieved full alignment.
“Industry looks forward to continuing to work with the public and with stakeholders in a collaborative and transparent way to close any remaining gaps before the finalised code takes effect.”
New Co-Regulatory Package a Boon for Emergency Services and Consumers
Emergency call services and telecommunications infrastructure deployment in Australia will be further strengthened under an important package of industry-developed co-regulation approved this week by the Board of Communications Alliance.
The package of five new or revised Industry Guidelines has been developed by expert industry working groups under Communications Alliance and has been published and made available here and also listed below.
The broad-ranging suite of measures will, among other things:
- enable the caller-location information to be available to emergency services from emergency assistance call monitoring centres, when members of the public make a distress call;
- help ensure that new Multi-Dwelling Units (MDUs) such as apartment buildings, are ‘fibre-ready’ when they are constructed, to ensure efficient pathways for connection to high-speed broadband services;
- create guidelines for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) interconnection to help Carriage Service Providers (CSPs) and Carriers connect to Australian telecommunications networks and thereby efficiently commence services to customers;
- improve the customer authorisation requirement process that is needed when customers want to transfer a service; and
- provide a framework for managed sharing of customer cabling to facilitate the roll-out of G.fast high-speed broadband technology in Australia.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said the new and revised guidelines are a significant addition to the broad framework of industry co-regulation that enables the Australian telco sector to construct and manage networks that are efficient, modern and among the best-performing in the world.
“The improvements to emergency call location information are particularly important
as we move into the so-called ‘disaster season’ across Australia.”
“Although some stakeholders seem to operate under the impression that direct regulation is the best path to meet telco consumer needs, the strength of co- regulation is that it allows industry experts to meet regulatory objectives that are rooted in operational reality and can be efficiently implemented by service providers.”
“The working groups that created these guidelines have done an outstanding job and will continue to create and maintain the broad swathe of industry-initiated Standards, Codes and Guidelines that underpin the operation of telecommunications in our country.”
“The Communications Alliance Board recently also proposed to government and regulators a package of proposals for improvement to the co-regulatory framework (see attachment) that would streamline process and create a faster path for regulators to be able to enforce industry compliance with registered codes, including for consumer protection.”
“We look forward to receiving stakeholder feedback on these important proposed improvements.”
List of publications
G557.7:2023 Location Information for Emergency Calls – Part 7: International Emergency Assistance Call Monitoring Centres Industry Guideline.
G557.7:2023 specifies the requirements for International Originated Emergency Assistance Calls originating from International Emergency Assistance Call Monitoring Centres e.g. for eCall.
G651:2023 Customer Authorisation Industry Guideline
G651:2023 is designed to provide:
- common information to be provided to all telecommunications Customers before they agree to a Transfer; and
- information to be obtained from the customer or their Authorised Representative for the gaining Carriage Service Provider (CSP) to obtain a valid Customer Authorisation (CA).
G670:2023 Fibre Ready MDUs for Real Estate Development Projects Industry Guideline
G670:2023 is designed to:
- outline the minimum standard for Telecommunications spaces within a Real Estate Multi Tenanted building Development Project to be considered a Fibre Ready Facility;
- describe recommended processes for the design and installation of Telecommunications facilities for use in the deployment of Optical Fibre Lines in a Real Estate Multi-Tenanted building Development Project; and
- describe the recommended materials used in the design and installation of facilities.
G671:2023 G.fast Deployment on Customer Cabling Industry Guideline
G671:2023 is intended to provide:
- A framework for managed sharing of customer cabling infrastructure within a premises or campus, while ensuring that all end users receive adequate G.fast data rates; and
- A technical basis for determination of whether sharing is viable in cases where G.fast Systems from one Distribution Point Unit (DPU) share customer cabling infrastructure with G.fast Systems originating from another DPU.
G672:2023 Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Interconnection Industry Guideline
G672:2023 is designed to:
- Assist a Carrier or Carriage Service Provider (CSP) seeking interconnection of services via Australian Telecommunications Networks;
- Guide on what to expect when implementing interconnection; and
- Help maintain the end-to-end integrity of Telecommunications Networks.
Is it Customer Cabling or Not?
Cabling that is used to support telecommunications services in customers’ premises is regulated under the Telecommunications Act. To exempt certain types of cabling that is not intended to be captured by telecommunications regulations, for example pre-terminated cords, the ACMA has in place the Telecommunications Types of Cabling Work Declaration.
This Declaration is being updated by the ACMA to ensure that there continues to be minimum requirements in place to manage the risks posed by certain types of cabling work, predominantly the health and safety of users and the integrity of telecommunications networks.
Communications Alliance provided a submission to the ACMA, supporting the remaking of the Declaration and taking the opportunity to comment on the proposed provisions concerning the use of unlabelled equipment and to clarify industry’s concern over the use of Ethernet of Coax adapters.
Below is a list of currently open telecommunications-related consultations being conducted by Government and other organisations that provide an opportunity for you to have your say.
Communications Alliance members interested in contributing to an industry submission (if one is being developed in response to a specific consultation) should contact us.