The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is boosting consumer protection against “bill shocks” and confusing mobile plans under a new “code of conduct” for telcos and ISPs.
This Telecommunications Protection Code, launched 11th July 2012, offers greater transparency for mobile phone usage.
This new code, applicable for Australian telcos and internet services providers (ISPs), is being administered by the ACMA. Industry enforcement comes into effects 1st September 2012.
ACMA is the Australian Government’s communications and media watchdog – with wide-ranging regulatory and industry monitoring powers.
The latest code enables consumers to more readily compare prices involving carriers and ISPs. Consumers gain better clarity about mobile phone usage, including calls, texting, and data downloads.
The ACMA code initially encourages industry self-regulation. It will be phased in over the next two years, enabling larger and small telcos to implement changes.
This code is a “unique and ground-breaking document by world standards,” says ACMA’s chairman, Chris Chapman.
The ACMA will closely monitor industry compliance with this code that applies to every service provider in Australia.
The ACMA will use its “powers of investigation and enforcement” if participants choose not to comply with these new code obligations, Mr Chapman notes.
In future, consumers will receive alerts (or warnings) about how much they spend on mobile phones, including calls, texts and data downloads.
These warnings are generated once consumers reach 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent of their monthly allowance for calls, messages and data.
Information about charging will be more readily-available for domestic and international calls.
Telcos and ISPs are required to provide critical information summaries – more clearly detailing product and service offerings.
This information enables consumers to better understand and manage the cost of services they sign up for.
Earlier, consumer pricing, complaint-handling and debt-management were clocking up massive costs, according to ACMA estimates.
These costs included US$1.5 billion (AUD$1.5 billion) associated with consumers choosing the wrong plan, and US$108 million (AUD$108 million) to handle telephone complaints.
Another US$113 million (AUD$113 million) was tallied up to write off bad debts.
The Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Simon Cohen, reported a substantial rise in complaints about mobile and internet services.
In 2010-2011, there was a 17.9 per cent increase in complaints, compared to 4.6 per cent the previous year.
“This sharp increase can almost exclusively be attributed to a rise in complaints about mobile phone services,” Mr Cohen noted.
Spikes in complaints about mobile services were caused, in large part, by telco network management issues and an increased use of smartphones.
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