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ACMA directs a dozen telcos to comply with consumer rules

The ACMA has directed twelve telecommunications companies to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (the code) for failing to comply with the industry compliance scheme under the code.

Telcos providing services to consumers are required to lodge documents with the industry compliance body, Communications Compliance (CommCom), by 1 April each year regarding their compliance with the code.  The code contains important safeguards for consumers.

The eleven providers directed to comply with the code requirements had been the subject of previous ACMA compliance action. For some, it’s the second time they have failed to lodge compliance documents with CommCom. 

‘These directions by the ACMA send a strong message to industry players who continue to flout code rules,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

With a direction in place, any further breaches of the code can lead to court proceedings and a pecuniary penalty being imposed.

On 21 July 2014, CommCom announced 331 telcos had lodged the required documentation for 2014, a major improvement over the 225 lodgements in 2013.

In September this year, the ACMA issued formal warnings to the 39 providers who failed to lodge documents for the first time.

‘While it is encouraging to see that the majority of active telcos have lodged documents with CommCom on time, it is disappointing that a small number of providers have yet to take their obligations seriously. In our experience, telcos’ with a genuine to commitment to customer care embed a customer-centric approach and a culture of compliance,’ Mr Chapman said.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 64/2014 - 2 October 2014

The ACMA revoked a direction on 14 November 2014.

Backgrounder

Q: What is CommCom? Why was it established?

A: CommCom is an independent body established under the TCP Code from 1 September 2012 to oversee a new Code Compliance Framework set out at Chapter 9. The framework requires telcos to promote code awareness, lodge annual compliance documents, prepare and maintain a Compliance Plan and, on the request of CommCom, prepare Compliance Achievement Plans and Compliance Monitoring Requests.

The intention of the Code Compliance Framework is to encourage industry to take responsibility for its own compliance with the Code consumer protection rules.

Q: What documents does a telco need to lodge with CommCom?

A: Each telco that provides services to consumers under the TCP Code must provide two documents to CommCom by 1 April each year.

The Customer Information Compliance Statement sets out where customers can access information required to be made publically available under the code. This information includes Critical Information Summaries, Financial Hardship and Complaint Handling Policies.

The Compliance Attestation is a document endorsed by the CEO or a senior manager of the telco, confirming that it complies with the TCP Code and has a Compliance Plan in place that meets Australian Standards. Large telcos must have this statement independently assessed.

Q: What can the ACMA do if a telco has breached the TCP Code?

 A: The ACMA can:

  • agree informally on measures that the telco should take to remediate the breach or improve TCP Code compliance
  • give the telco a Formal Warning
  • give the telco a Direction to Comply with all or part of the TCP Code.

The ACMA cannot ‘fine’ the telco or direct it to do anything other than comply with the TCP Code.

Q: What can the ACMA do if a telco fails to comply with a Direction to Comply?

A: If the provider fails to comply with such a direction, the ACMA can issue an infringement notice, accept an enforceable undertaking or commence Federal Court proceedings for orders—including the imposition of a pecuniary penalty of up to $250,000.

Q: What is the ACMA’s approach to non-compliance with the CommCom requirements and the TCP Code?

A: The ACMA takes a staged approach to compliance. Formal warnings have been issued to those firms with no previous history of non-compliance. A number of other investigations are continuing.

Q: How has the ACMA been ensuring industry compliance with TCP Code?

A: Since the TCP code was registered in September 2012, the ACMA has conducted many targeted TCP Code compliance audits and investigations resulting in:

  • 152  formal warnings
  • 21 directions to comply
  • 1 infringement notice.

On a very positive note, the effectiveness of the new rules, industry’s general high level of compliance and the ACMA’s graduated approach to non-compliance is evident in TIO complaint statistics. They show the number complaints has dropped from 158,652 in 2012-13 to 138,946 in 2013-14 (a decrease of just over 12 per cent).

Last updated: 19 November 2014

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