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TIO supports the move to directly regulate telcos

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) welcomes this morning’s announcement by Minister Rowland directing the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to regulate consumer protections in the telecommunications sector. The ACMA will make an enforceable industry standard to ensure appropriate support is provided to telecommunications consumers experiencing financial hardship.

The direction to better protect consumers in financial hardship is a significant step toward appropriate consumer safeguards in the telco sector.  

While this is an important first step, the TIO encourages the government to continue to improve consumer protections through stronger regulation and consider the establishment of a registration scheme for telcos. 

The TIO released a systemic investigation report in June 2023 which revealed that the current rules in the telecommunications sector are no longer fit for purpose. Until there are further changes and direct regulation takes the place of all essential consumer protections, some telcos will continue to fail to meet the needs and expectations of consumers. 

The TIO also made a submission to Communications Alliance’s consultation for its scheduled review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, which is due to be finalised in 2024. This industry Code, which outlines the key consumer protections for telco consumers, is no longer fit for purpose. While changing the Code is not a substitute for direct regulation of consumer protections, the TIO will continue to work with Communications Alliance and other stakeholders to ensure that the Code meets the needs of telco consumers.  

Quote attributable to Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert: 

“With the rising cost of living, financial hardship is a significant concern for consumers and its impacts can be severe. When a consumer loses access to essential phone and internet services, they may be cut off from accessing healthcare, government and banking services, work, schooling, and social connection.” 

“I’m pleased to see the government has recognised the need for improvement in supporting consumers experiencing vulnerability. This is a huge step forward for the industry and recognises the essentiality of telco services.” 

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