A new Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code was registered by the ACMA on 1 September 2012. It will be progressively phased in over the following 12 months, and will provide better protection to telecommunications (telco) customers from bill shock, confusing mobile plans and poor complaints-handling.
The code comprehensively delivers on the key recommendations of the ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer report. The ACMA estimates that choosing the wrong plan has been costing telco customers up to $1.5 billion a year.
Under the new code, telco providers must be clear about what they are offering in their phone plans and stop using confusing terms like ‘cap’ (unless the offer refers to a ‘hard cap’—an amount that cannot be exceeded).
Customers will also benefit from better spend management tools designed to avoid bill shock, including improvements in billing processes and credit management, and the introduction of notifications about data usage and expenditure thresholds.
Some of the changes will be phased in to help providers adjust their systems. Since September 2012, customers have been able to more easily compare costs and plans. Telcos will be required to provide unit pricing for national calls, standard SMS and downloading 1 MB of data in advertisements.
Since 1 March 2013, customers buying a new service have received a two-page document called the ‘Critical Information Summary’. This includes essential information about service, pricing and complaints-handling, as well as volumetric information so consumers can easily understand how many two-minute calls or texts they can make under their plan.
The new code will mean faster and better complaints-handling, with urgent complaints resolved within two days. All of these new measures will be monitored and telcos subject to new benchmarking standards.
Telcos must advise customers having difficulty paying their bills or meeting unexpectedly high bills about spend management tools, hardship advice and options to restrict services.
A new industry compliance body is being formed to ensure all industry participants comply with the new code.
- Top 10 wins for consumers (Word 880 kB, PDF 342 kB)
Report to Code—compare the report recommendations with the new TCP Code (Word [894 kB], PDF [590 kB])
International perspective—the new code establishes a single comprehensive code for consumers and industry, a form of protection unique to the Australian telco industry (Word [781 kB], PDF [427 kB])
Frequently asked questions about the telco reforms (Word [793 kB], PDF [327 kB])
TCP timeframe—the new code will be rolled out across 2012/13 (Word [886kB], PDF [419 kB])