We’re joined by Mark Feetham, who’s a Partner in the Technology Group at Middletons and joins us from Sydney, Mark welcome to BRR Media.
Well Mark we saw last week that agreement was reached on the new Code regulating the telecommunication industry due to come in from 1 September 2012; has it hit the mark in terms of consumer protection?
Well look I think in short it probably has, there’s probably two aspects to this which give me the confidence to say that. The first one is the way the Code was developed and finalised and the second is the key improvements that have actually been made by the Code, and if we just have a look at those two quickly. The Code was developed as a result of an inquiry which ACMA conducted, as a result of that inquiry an industry body was then tasked with the job of actually preparing a new Code which would address the issues identified by the inquiry. Now ACMA’s come back and said that about 95% of the inquiry’s recommendations have been implemented into this Code, and ACMA as a result has registered the Code and approved it. So that gives me the confidence that the regulator, interacting with the industry, has reached a Code outcome which is objectively – an objective improvement on the position we had before.
What are the major changes under the revised Code?
Well there’s a raft of changes and they mostly relate to providing consumers with better information before they buy and also better information so that they can manage their usage of services. So I can run through some of those for you, for example, in relation to advertising there’s been a change, you can’t use these terms of – that are currently being used such as cap unless it’s genuinely is capped, you can’t no exceptions and no exclusions and unlimited unless genuinely there aren’t any of those things. Those terms have been misused really. There’s an obligation to provide some unit pricing information so customers can objectively compare plans by looking at the cost of a standard call under different plans. So there’s all those sort of information type requirements that have been embodied into the Code.
And Mark what about when it comes to penalty in enforcement of the new Code, what can telcos expect from ACMA?
Well ACMA’s come out and said that it intends to pursue and investigate breaches of the Code far more rigorously than it has in the past. Basically ACMA’s got three avenues of approach if they – if a provider of telco services doesn’t comply, the first thing it will do is it will issue a direction to comply and if that direction’s not observed or satisfied it will then issue an infringement notice or require an enforceable undertaking to be provided or alternatively it could go to court to the Federal Court and seek a civil penalty.
Okay and Mark the changes are due to come in on 1 September, will they all be applying from that date?
No there’s a bit of a phase in because the industry needs some time to change its systems and also its procedures so that they can address these new requirements. So some of them do start later this year in November or September, but there are many that are delayed until 2013, for example the requirements about providing customers with information on how quickly they’ve consumed their data allowance, those won’t phase in until 1 September 2013 or in some cases 2014, but some providers may take an active step now already, who are already prepared and will start to implement the changes earlier than that if they’re able to.
Yes certainly sounds like a good idea, Mark thanks for joining us today.
Not a problem.
That was Mark Feetham, who’s a Partner in the Technology Group at Middletons in Sydney. Now of course listeners if you have any questions for Mark you can send them through either using the panel that appears on your screen or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.