The Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code provides a host of consumer safeguards for mobile, landline and internet customers. These safeguards are set out in clear rules that telecommunications providers must follow when communicating and dealing with customers. The rules cover the areas of advertising and point of sale, billing, payment methods, complaint handling and when customers change their service provider.
The TCP Code complements other general consumer protection measures such as the Australian Consumer Law.
The Code was significantly improved in 2012 following the ACMA’s public inquiry into customer service and complaint handling processes (Reconnecting the Customer report) to better protect customers from bill shock, confusing mobile plans and poor complaints-handling. The code was also refreshed in 2015 to reduce some unnecessary duplication with other legislation and to give telco providers greater flexibility in when and how key information is provided to customers.
In August 2017 the TCP Code was varied to address one of the recommendations arising from the Victorian Royal Commission into Domestic Violence. The variation explicitly extends the criteria for financial hardship to include victims of domestic abuse.
TCP Code consumer safeguards
The TCP code requires telco providers to:
be clear about what they are offering in their phone and internet plans e.g. not use confusing terms like ‘cap’ unless the offer refers to a ‘hard cap’—an amount that cannot be exceeded
provide unit pricing
for national calls, standard SMS and downloading 1 MB of data in advertisements
make available 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 and compare this value against alternative plans.
provide mandatory spend management tools designed to avoid bill shock, including alerts about their usage levels and expenditure of data, calls and texts.
have fair billing and credit management processes.
Have effective and clear complaints-handling
processes, with urgent complaints to be resolved within two days.
advise customers having difficulty paying their bills or meeting unexpectedly high bills about spend management tools, financial hardship advice and options to restrict services.
The ACMA regularly monitors compliance with these requirements. The TIO also publishes quarterly data on its website that ranks the major telcos (and some smaller telcos) in terms of their rates of complaint numbers.
Under the TCP Code an industry compliance body called Communications Compliance also operates to ensure code compliance among industry participants.