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Outcomes: compliance priorities 2022–23

Each year, we identify and target key areas where there may be a high risk of harm or community concern about industry compliance. In setting our annual compliance priorities, we consider the public interest, harms to the community, risks of non-compliance and the potential to boost consumer confidence.

To assess our success in meeting our compliance priorities in 2022–23, below are the actions we took and the outcomes we achieved.

Protecting telco customers experiencing financial hardship

Our focus

We said that we would focus on telco customers experiencing financial hardship and make sure telcos comply with their obligations, especially those relating to disconnection of services.

What we did

  • Conducted consumer research.
  • Gathered information from industry.
  • Audited telco compliance with the rules.
  • Launched consumer education campaigns.

Key outcomes

We released our Financial hardship in the telco sector: Keeping the customer connected report, which identified the key issues experienced by telco consumers and the need for telcos to address the reasonable expectations of their customers.

We completed an audit of 15 telcos’ compliance with financial hardship and disconnection notification requirements in the TCP Code, which resulted in several consequential investigations.

We developed and launched a consumer education campaign across digital and social media channels. The campaign aimed to raise awareness of telco financial hardship programs and associated consumer protections so help Australians to maintain continued access to their telco services.

We complemented our consumer work with industry education activities. We encouraged telcos to assist customers experiencing financial pressures by minimising customer disconnections and appropriately supporting vulnerable consumers.

Enforcing SMS and email unsubscribe rules

Our focus

We said that we would concentrate our actions on businesses that don’t action unsubscribe requests, or those that unlawfully require customers to log in to an account, create a new account, or provide personal details to unsubscribe.

What we did

  • Conducted investigations informed by complaints and other intelligence and took strong enforcement action as warranted.
  • Targeted businesses and the community with educational initiatives about SMS and email unsubscribe rules.

Key outcomes

We finalised 9 investigations (with another 5 still underway) into SMS and email unsubscribe rules. Our enforcement actions included issuing more than $8 million in infringement notices and accepting court-enforceable undertakings, including from large, established organisations, for not providing an unsubscribe facility that complied with spam laws.

We sent compliance alerts and tailored information to around 2,000 businesses identified as potentially breaching the unsubscribe rules, reminding them of their obligations and the penalties for non-compliance.

We provided federal, state and territory business councils and key digital-marketing industry associations with educational material to share with their members, which detailed unsubscribe requirements under the Spam Act.

Combating SMS and identity theft phone scams

Our focus

We said that we would focus our efforts new rules that require telcos to use stronger ID checks for transactions targeted by scammers, and establish and enforced new rules to reduce SMS scams.  

What we did

  • Reinforced the need for telcos to meet their scam obligations and the penalties for non-compliance.
  • Audited mobile resellers’ compliance with new rules to prevent identity theft.
  • Audited telcos that send bulk text messages as they may be a potential conduit of SMS scams onto Australian networks.

Key outcomes

We contacted approximately 600 telcos to remind them of their obligations and directed them to information on the ACMA’s website about how to comply.

We commenced an audit into 42 telcos that send bulk text messages, which has revealed vulnerabilities created by non-compliance are used by scammers to send high-profile SMS scams to Australians. The audit is ongoing, however 3 companies have been given directions to comply (breaches of this direction can have penalties of up to $250,000) and 1 company received a formal warning, following investigations.

The ACMA has seen a dramatic reduction in porting and SIM swap fraud as reported by telcos, major banks and other intelligence sources. This reduction follows the ACMA making rules to address mobile porting fraud in 2020, and new rules to protect SIM swaps and other potential high risk customer transactions from fraud in June 2022.

Following the ACMA’s registration and enforcement of rules to identify and block scam calls in December 2020, over 1.15 billion scam calls have blocked to 31 March 2023.

Since registration and enforcement of new rules to identify and block scam text messages in July 2022, around 172 million scam messages have been blocked to 31 March 2023.

Tackling online supply of dodgy devices

Our focus

We said that we would be focusing on supplier compliance with equipment rules and educating Australians about the risks of buying non-compliant devices online.

What we did

  • Engaged with online platforms and suppliers to remove advertisements for  non-compliant devices.
  • Conducted audits of e-commerce platforms.
  • Educated consumers and suppliers about the problems with buying non-compliant devices and raised awareness of the rules.

Key outcomes

We conducted an audit of e-commerce platforms selling radiocommunications devices. The audit resulted in identifying and removing 1,062 advertisements for non-compliant devices.

We ran an advertising campaign to educate consumers and raise supplier awareness of the regulatory rules, during April and May 2023.

We met with a variety of eCommerce platforms, including eBay and Facebook/Meta, to agree on streamlined processes for identification and removal of advertisements for non-compliant devices.

Read our final report.

Improving captioning quality

Our focus

We said we would shift away from investigating individual complaints to assessing industry more broadly on whether television broadcasters were meeting their captioning obligations.

What we did

  • Conducted spot audits of captioning quality in programs broadcast by metropolitan and regional free-to-air television networks.
  • Continued to assess individual captioning complaints on a case-by-case basis.
  • Sought views from stakeholders on a range of issues to inform our review of the Captioning Quality Standard, including concerns about compliance.

Key outcomes

We completed our audit program, with 2 rounds of assessments of live and near-live programming broadcasts by metropolitan and regional services.

The results of the audits in November 2022 and March 2023 have enabled us to form a more comprehensive view of overall broadcaster compliance with the requirements in the Captioning Quality Standard. The results are also contributing to the review of the Captioning Quality Standard, ahead of the standard’s sunset date of October 2023.

Combating mis-and-disinformation on digital platforms

Our focus

We said that we will continue to review digital platforms’ data and performance measures under its voluntary industry code and advise government on the code’s effectiveness.

What we did

  • Examined ways to strengthen industry transparency reporting under the code.
  • Conducted research into digital platform reporting and complaints processes.
  • Engaged with a range of domestic and international government agencies.
  • Encouraged more platforms to sign up to the code.

Key outcomes

We provided input to Digital Industry Group Inc’s (DIGI) review of its code, which was finalised in December 2022. We will be providing further advice to government on the effectiveness of industry self-regulatory arrangements, including the revised code.

Our consumer research into users’ experience with digital platform reporting and complaints processes, and examination of the code signatories’ recent transparency reports will be included in our advice to government in July 2023.

Supporting Australians to self-exclude from online and phone gambling

Our focus

We said that we would focus on establishing BetStop – the National Self-Exclusion Register™ and, once it was established, enforce the new rules for online and phone gambling providers.

What we did

  • Continued the development of the Register, including testing.
  • Completed security and privacy assessments for the Register.
  • Established new industry rules for the Register.
  • Educated online and phone gambling providers about the Register rules.

Key outcomes

The Register has been subject to a rigorous security and privacy assessment to ensure that sensitive consumer information is safe and secure.

We made new rules for industry using the Register and provided guidance to them about compliance expectations.

Due to the original Register operator entering voluntary administration, the commencement of the register has been delayed. We have subsequently engaged a new provider and will launch the Register as soon as possible.

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