Economy

ACMA will use new powers to crack down on telcos not complying with industry code

Engel Schmidl /

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has been given new powers by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to punish telcos which aren’t conforming to the industry’s new code.

The new rules, which began on September 1, now dictate telco providers must tell users when they’re about to breach their plan limits, and cannot use terms such as “cap” or “unlimited” in advertising unless they mean them literally.

SmartCompany has previously covered the code and specific differences that apply to business and consumers.

Conroy announced the new powers at an event run by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network yesterday, saying he was now giving ACMA the power to create new rules.

“While the Code addresses current issues, I expect industry to be responsive in addressing new concerns as they emerge,” Conroy said.

“[The new powers] will provide the ACMA with the flexibility to introduce consumer protection measures if satisfactory consumer outcomes are not being delivered.”

This means ACMA can now create rules relating to issues such as complicated bills and advertising before actually fining telcos for breaching the code.

While telcos have all said they will abide by the new code, ACMA now has the power to actually enforce them – and chairman Chris Chapman said yesterday he’ll be doing exactly that.

“Recent internal changes means our ability to enforce compliance is strong,” he said. “Our consumer interest section is being beefed up with increased staff and is preparing for a raft of investigations.

“The welcome new powers will allow earlier regulatory intervention concerning any problem areas … in addition, the ACMA will not hesitate to press for further change either to the code or to the regulatory regime if the code does not deliver.”

Chapman said the powers, and the new code, mean there may be more cases appearing before the Federal Court soon enough.

“You will see more investigations, directions and court cases. So, if you’re an industry player, for heaven’s sake wise up,”

He also warned that ACMA will make more changes to the code if telcos aren’t abiding by the new rules, and that 100 service providers will be audited by June 2013.

Priorities for the regulator include handling complaints and advertising. But in 2013, it will start working on the rollout of critical information summaries, which are two-page summaries of all plans offered by a particular telco. They will have to give those to consumers when asked.

“Our priority will be advertisements that use misleading or confusing language,” he said.

The new code mandates that when businesses use the word “unlimited”, they must actually mean unlimited services and not services that are speed-capped after a certain point, making them effectively unusable.

 

 

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