The ACMA

Reconnecting the customer

Telecommunications consumer protection code

Telco consumers get help to avoid bill shock

Australian telecommunications customers can look forward to better tools to manage their spending when new elements of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (the TCP code) kick in next week. This should be of huge assistance in managing their usage and avoiding surprise bills.

Taking effect from 1 September, 2013, the spend management alerts are in addition to a range of new tools introduced for telco consumers following registration of the TCP code by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The changes include:

  • Residential customers on post-paid mobile and internet plans (with the potential for excess usage charges) will receive email updates when their data usage reaches 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent of the amount included in their plan
  • Residential customers of the largest three mobile providers—Optus, Telstra and Vodafone—will also, from that date, receive SMS alerts when usage of their included value for calls and SMS reaches 50, 85 and 100 per cent.

The warnings at the 100 per cent usage mark must also include details of excess usage charges, which can be considerably higher than charges within the plan.

‘These notifications target customers most at risk of bill shock and represent an enormous industry reform by placing the power of information in the hands of consumers when they need it,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

‘It complements previous improvements in consumer protections in the industry code arising from the ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer inquiry, such as Critical Information Summaries, clearer advertising and improved complaint handling.'

Customers will not receive the warnings if they are on a plan which does not expose them to bill shock. This includes plans that are a pre-paid service, have a hard cap, or are an unlimited service, a dial-up internet service or are a shaped internet service, (i.e. which slows data rather than imposes excess usage charges when customers reach their data usage limit). The warnings are not mandatory for mobile plans launched prior to 1 March, 2012.

The final element of the new TCP code, developed by Communications Alliance, rolls out in September 2014 when customers of the mid-sized and small telcos (less than 100,000 customers on included value plans) receive voice and SMS usage alerts to accompany their data alerts.

The introduction of spend management alerts from 1 September 2013 will be of enormous benefit to consumers. Other significant benefits have been provided over the past two years following the introduction of the TCP code, a form of telco industry protection unique to Australia.

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 62/2013 - 28 August

Last updated: 11 February 2014

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