How to make a complaint if you think a carrier has not complied with the Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code
What can I complain to the ACMA about?
You can make a complaint to the ACMA if you believe that a carrier has not met its obligations under the Mobile Phone Base Station Deployment Code. The ACMA may take into account other issues related to carrier practices and may recommend to carriers that they improve certain aspects of their practices to ensure better relationships with the community, but will only investigate complaints where the code has been contravened.
What types of complaints are not able to be investigated by the ACMA?
The ACMA cannot investigate complaints about the definition of a low-impact facility or whether a particular facility is a low-impact facility. While the ACMA can assist members of the community in locating and understanding the provisions of the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facility) Determination 1997, the ACMA cannot make a ruling about whether a facility is low impact or not. Similarly, the ACMA cannot rule or make a recommendation about whether a carrier should place a facility on an alternative site.
Where a council does not agree with a carrier that a telecommunications facility is low impact, the council should seek legal advice from a qualified legal practitioner. Only a court of law can make a ruling on the interpretation of the legislation.
The ACMA can only investigate complaints where carriers have not complied with the code. The ACMA cannot comment on the merits of a site location. The best way to provide feedback or input on the location of a proposed facility is to provide written comment to the carrier during the consultation period provided for under the code. Carriers take community comments seriously, and have relocated some facilities following community consultation.
Although relocation is relatively rare, carriers are obliged to consider community comments when weighing up the appropriateness of a proposed facility location. This does not mean that all comments must be accepted or acted upon.
If you have concerns about a carrier’s proposal to locate a base station at a particular location and the carrier has not contravened the code, you can lodge comments or questions with the carrier. These will be dealt with through their complaints-handling procedures.
What can I do if I think a carrier has not complied with the code?
If you think a carrier has not complied with the code, the first step is to contact the carrier and express your concerns. You will need to do this in writing, by email, post or fax. Carriers are required to help you put your complaint into writing if you need assistance.
If you are not happy with the carrier’s response, you can then contact the ACMA. To ensure your complaint can be dealt with as quickly as possible, see the guidelines below on what to include in your complaint. The ACMA may investigate the complaint and may take action against the carrier if necessary. Complaints should be made to:
Radiocommunications Licensing and Telecommunications Deployment Section
Australian Communications and Media Authority
PO Box 78
Belconnen ACT 2616
What should I include in my complaint?
You should set out your complaint as clearly as possible, detailing what sections of the code you believe may have been breached and your reasons. You should provide details of any relevant incidents or correspondence that may support your complaint. For this reason, the ACMA recommends that you keep copies of all correspondence you receive or send.
What will happen when I make a complaint to the ACMA about a carrier breaching the code?
After receiving copies of your original complaint to the carrier and the carrier’s response, the ACMA may investigate allegations that carriers are not complying with the code.
The ACMA may ask the carrier whether it has complied with the section of the code that the complaint is about. The ACMA will consider the carrier’s response and any other pertinent information, such as council correspondence, and decide whether the code has been contravened. If the ACMA believes that the carrier has contravened the code, it may issue a ‘show cause’ letter, asking the carrier to demonstrate or prove that it did comply.
If a carrier is found to be non-compliant, the ACMA can issue a formal warning or direction to the carrier to comply with the code. If the carrier breaches such a warning or direction, the ACMA can refer the matter to the Federal Court. This may result in the carrier receiving financial penalties of up to $250,000 per breach.
What can I do if a carrier has placed a facility near a location in my community that I consider to be sensitive?
Under the code, a carrier must consider the following factors when deciding on a site:
- minimising public exposure to electromagnetic energy
- community-sensitive locations, such as schools
- the outcome of consultation with councils and communities
- service objectives
- physical characteristics of a site, such as height and terrain
- ability to connect with the rest of the network
- cost factors.
No one factor is considered to be more important than the others and it is up to the carrier to balance their importance in site selection. Carriers must also meet the minimum consultation and notification periods, and must comply with their community consultation plan. The ACMA can only investigate whether the carrier has taken all of these factors into consideration when selecting a site. The ACMA cannot comment on the suitability of specific sites.
What happens if the code has been contravened?
If the ACMA finds your complaint is justified, and there has been a contravention of the Mobile Phone Bast Station Deployment Code, the ACMA may warn a carrier about the contravention or direct the carrier to comply with the code. If a carrier does not comply with a direction, it may be liable to significant financial penalties.
Generally speaking, carriers may also be liable under state and territory laws. These matters are outside the operation of the code.
Where can I find more information?
The ACMA website has an information portal with information about communications infrastructure deployment, including low-impact facilities, carrier powers and immunities, and regulation of electromagnetic energy emissions.
You can contact the ACMA’s Radiocommunications Licensing and Telecommunications Deployment Section.
The Deployment of Mobile Phone Network Infrastructure Code is available from the ACMA website or the Communications Alliance website at www.commsalliance.com.au.
The ACMA has fact sheets on a range of topics.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.