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Submission to Communications Alliance’s 2024 TCP Code review

On Tuesday 13 June 2023, the TIO made a submission to Communications Alliance’s consultation for its 2024 Review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code. The consultation has significant outcomes for consumers, for the TIO, and for the telco industry.

Read the submission

The TCP Code is one of the major pieces of consumer protection in the Australian telecommunications sector. This ‘registered industry code’ was developed by Communications Alliance, the peak industry body for telcos. The TCP Code is reviewed every five years, and this consultation is the first step in the next scheduled review process, due to reach completion in 2024. 

Since the commencement of the TCP Code, the telco sector has undergone significant change. The TIO’s submission argued the TCP Code is no longer fit for purpose because: 

  • It does not ensure consumers experience fair and open dealings with telcos,  
  • It does not define appropriate protections for disadvantaged and vulnerable consumers, and 
  • Consumers do not always receive effective remedies when their telco breaches the Code. 

What’s the solution? The co-regulatory TCP Code should be replaced with direct regulation. 

Echoing the TIO’s submission to Part C of the Consumer Safeguards Review, the organisation called for essential consumer protections for telco consumers to be included in rules made and enforced by government and regulators, rather than by an industry representative body. 

Incorporating consumer protection rules in direct regulation would create better outcomes for both consumers and the industry because: 

  • it would recognise the essentiality of phone and internet services for Australian consumers, 
  • government and regulators have the expertise required to draft effective and enforceable obligations, 
  • government and regulators have a clearer remit to ensure regulation keeps pace with the needs of consumers and the changing telecommunications sector,  
  • direct regulation would empower the Australian Communications and Media Authority to take faster and more effective action when a telco breaches the rules. 

The submission also made targeted recommendations about how the TCP Code should be changed. 

As well as submitting that the TCP Code should be replaced with direct regulation, the TIO gave constructive feedback about areas where the Code could be improved if it remains in place. The TIO made 30 recommendations about how the Code could be improved, covering four key areas. 

Some of our key recommendations include: 

  • Better protections about sales practices and product information, 
  • Improved protections for consumers experiencing payment difficulties and more robust credit assessments to help ensure consumers are sold products they can afford, 
  • Stronger requirements for telco bills to be issued in all circumstances, and be clear and easy to understand, 
  • Requirements for mandatory payment methods that must be offered to all consumers, 
  • Mandatory protections for consumers experiencing domestic or family violence. 

Changing the TCP Code is not a substitute for direct regulation. But should consumer protections continue to be regulated through the code, changes are needed to ensure the code can adequately protect all consumers and support telcos with clear regulatory obligations.