28 March 2006
New scheme to reimburse consumer code development costs to industry bodies and associations
Under a new scheme beginning today, telecommunications industry bodies and associations can now apply to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for reimbursement of the refundable costs they incur in developing consumer-related telecommunications industry codes.
The scheme provides for industry self-regulatory bodies and associations to recover the costs of consumer code development from industry through carrier licence charges collected annually by ACMA.
The reimbursement scheme only applies to telecommunications industry codes that deal principally with consumer-related issues and are submitted to ACMA for registration.
‘The reimbursement scheme will provide increased funding certainty for code development as refundable costs will be approved by ACMA before the code is developed,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman. ‘Refundable costs will include the costs of securing professional services and specialist advice to assist in timely code development.’
ACMA has determined that some costs are non-refundable, such as costs that are not wholly related to the development of a code or that have been funded through other means (for example, by membership fees, salary or Commonwealth funding), but will consider all other categories of costs. Costs may only be reimbursed if ACMA is satisfied that the total of the claim is reasonable.
Bodies or associations that represent a particular section of the telecommunications industry can apply to ACMA for a declaration of eligibility for reimbursement at the time a code is proposed, and are required to provide an estimate of the total costs they expect to incur. A declaration of eligibility will be in force for two years and a claim for reimbursement can be made in that period once the code is developed and submitted to ACMA for registration under Part 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1997.
A guide to the reimbursement scheme and online application forms are available on the ACMA website.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media Manager on (02) 9334 7980.
On 23 September 2005, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Future Proofing and Other Measures) Bill 2005 was enacted, which introduced Division 6A, Part 6 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act). Division 6A provides for reimbursement of costs incurred by certain bodies or associations when developing consumer-related industry codes.
Bodies or associations that represent a particular section of the telecommunications industry can apply to ACMA for a declaration of eligibility for reimbursement for their code development costs at the time a code is proposed. Once the code is developed and submitted for registration under the Act, these bodies or associations may be reimbursed for refundable and reasonable costs incurred in code development.
Only certain codes are covered by the reimbursement scheme—code development costs may be reimbursed if the code applies to participants in a particular section of the telecommunications industry, deals with one or more matters relating to the telecommunications activities of those participants and deals wholly or mainly with the relationship between carriage service providers and their retail customers. Codes that do not deal wholly or mainly with the relationship between carriage service providers and their retail customers are excluded, such as codes that deal wholly or mainly with community safeguards or network operability. The scheme does not cover codes made under other legislation overseen by ACMA, such as codes made under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Until now, telecommunications industry bodies and associations have directly borne most of the cost of industry code development, with the exception of grants of financial assistance provided to some consumer representatives by the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts under subsection 593(1) of the Act. Funding arrangements under subsection 593(1) will be varied to prevent duplication of funding to those consumer representation bodies that have their costs reimbursed for code work through industry bodies and associations under the scheme.
Under the reimbursement scheme, the burden of industry code development costs will be shifted to licensed carriers, as the reimbursement scheme will be funded through annual carrier licensing charges which are collected by ACMA. Annual licence charges are incurred by carriers in an amount proportionate to their market share. In this way, the cost of developing consumer codes will be spread over the large number of carriers required to pay the annual carrier licence charge. The Consolidated Revenue Fund will be appropriated for timely payments under the reimbursement scheme to ensure scheme efficiency, and will be fully refunded annually through annual carrier licence charges.
ACMA is already closely involved in the development and registration of industry codes. ACMA must apply the section 112 ‘public interest balance test’ when considering its obligation to register a code under section 117 of the Act. Once a code is registered, ACMA may direct code compliance (section 121) and may issue a formal warning if a person contravenes a registered industry code (section 122).
The new provisions are intended to work together with existing provisions relating to the development and registration of codes set out in Part 6 of the Act.