Media release 76/2012 – 15 October
A major shift towards a better consumer experience in the telecommunications industry is a key theme of the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (the ACMA) Annual report 2011–12, tabled in federal parliament today.
The centrepiece is the new Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code
—a culmination of the Reconnecting the Customer
public inquiry that began in 2010. The new code came into effect on 1 September.
‘The new code is a world-class, consumer-driven blueprint that requires improved disclosure in advertising and point-of-sale,’ said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman. ‘It is supported by better complaints-handling processes, improved customer service and, importantly, the introduction of spend management tools.’
The new Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Industry Code came into effect on 1 June 2012, creating new protections for people using premium SMS and MMS. Mobile service providers must now report quarterly to the ACMA on the results of their marketplace compliance monitoring.
The number of complaints about mobile premium services recorded by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) fell by around 85 per cent from their peak of almost 10,000 in the September 2008 quarter to just over 1,470 in the June 2012 quarter.
However, the number of contacts—complaints, reports and enquiries—from the public about spam increased 622 per cent to a record high of 226,816 during the year (a significant proportion of these contacts were about the same businesses.)
Greater awareness of the ACMA’s role in spam regulation, the first full year of streamlined methods for reporting spam to the ACMA by email and the continued success of the Spam SMS service contributed to this increase.
The ACMA received 2,273 written complaints and enquiries about commercial, national and community broadcasters, and investigated licensees’ compliance with codes of practice, licence conditions, standards and the Broadcasting Services Act. Two investigations into Today FM Sydney (2Day) attracted significant public attention and comment.
During 2011–12, the already high number of complaints received about online content increased further to a total of 5,026, a three per cent increase on 2010–11.
In spectrum management, the ACMA continued its work to implement restack and clear the digital dividend spectrum for reallocation. Preparations for the consequent spectrum auction, scheduled for April 2013, are now being finalised.
The ACMA began implementing the results of its review of the 400 MHz band, which will enhance interoperability of state and federal emergency services spectrum over several years.
The ACMA’s coordination role for the NBN implementation continued to emerge throughout the year.
‘We will keep protecting consumers in the transition to the NBN, ensuring the continued provision and quality of basic voice services,’ Mr Chapman said.
The ACMA’s cybersafety program also expanded during the year, with new resources added to the existing suite of cybersafety material for young people. Our short film Tagged tackled the critical issues of cyberbullying, sexting and digital reputation. Tagged won a number of prestigious international awards, including the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards Silver World Medal for 2012.
The Cybersmart Outreach program delivered 1,803 presentations to more than 198,000 teachers, parents and students, with a further 4,500 trainee teachers participating in the Outreach pre-service teacher program being delivered across Australian universities.
‘It’s clear that in the cybersafety area we have come from a standing start a few short years ago to achieving international peer recognition,’ Mr Chapman said.
The year was one of considerable pace and challenge for the ACMA with rapidly changing technology and services placing pressure on the organisation.
‘The role of regulation in the sector has been under intense scrutiny through a number of reviews which examined the policy and regulatory frameworks that apply to converged media and communications in Australia,’ Mr Chapman said.
‘Each review made significant final or preliminary recommendations relevant to the role and functions of the media regulator. It will be interesting to see how the reviews unfold and what they might mean for the ACMA.’
In the meantime, developments such as cloud computing, virtualisation, machine-to-machine communication and semantic networks will call for ever more agile and adaptive modes of regulation.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0411 504 687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.