The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code

The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code: Protecting our internet service customers

The Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code was created by the Australian telecommunications industry, through the work of Communications Alliance (the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia), after consultation with regulators and consumer groups. The Code contains a set of rules designed to protect the rights of consumers and to clearly spell out the obligations of retail telecommunications service providers. The Code was most recently updated on 1 August 2019.

The TCP Code is registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which is Australia’s communications sector regulator.

Critical Information Summary (CIS):

Each service provider must ensure that a document called “Critical Information Summary” (CIS) is made available for its telecommunications products and services. This must be provided on its website and also made available directly to consumers at particular times.

Each CIS must include:

  • A description of the service or product with details like what is included and excluded,
  • Pricing information, such as minimum and maximum charges,
  • How much you will have to pay if you end a contract early,
  • The minimum term of the product or service,
  • How to contact the service provider’s customer service team and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, and
  • How to make a complaint about the service provider’s products and services.

Signing up or buying:

Your service provider is required to provide you with certain additional information in relation to the telecommunications products and services it offers. For example, your service provider should:

  • Describe products and services accurately without leaving important information out, in a way you can understand,
  • For mobile services, provide you with accurate information about the coverage of the network that is used to provide those services,
  • Provide you with information about the price of its products and services and information about billing arrangements for its products and services,
  • Advise you of details of any post-sales support provided for its products and services and any fees or charges for that support, and
  • Make information available about any of their products and services that specifically cater to consumers with a disability.

Your service provider is also required to provide its standard form customer contract on its website.

Advertisements:

Service providers have obligations under the Australian Consumer Law to ensure that advertisements for telecommunications products and services are not misleading. Without limiting those obligations, service providers should also ensure that, amongst other matters, such advertisements:

  • include any important conditions or limitations about the product or service in any advertising to allow consumers to make informed choices,
  • do not use certain terms or phrases that are not accurate.  For example, advertisements should not include the term “unlimited” when referring to usage unless the relevant service is ordinarily genuinely unlimited and not subject to exclusions, and
  • do not make claims in relation to network coverage for mobile services unless those claims are able to be substantiated.

Billing arrangements:

In most cases, having a contract means your service provider must regularly provide you with a bill. Different arrangements apply to service providers for telecommunications services depending on whether the service is provided on a pre-paid (that is, the fees are payable in advance) or on a post-paid (that is, the fees are payable in arrears) basis.

Where your service provider provides pre-paid services, your service provider should:

  • provide information about charges and discounts and terms and conditions applicable to its bills,
  • if requested by you, provide you with billing information in relation to the telecommunications services you acquired, for a period of up to six years, and
  • ensure that one method of payment is provided to you that is free of charge.

Dealing with a problem

It is in both service providers’ and your interests to solve any problems you have in the first instance. Complaints handling is no longer dealt with under the TCP Code but instead in the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018 (Cth) (Standard). The Standard imposes obligations on service providers such as that each service provider:

  • must try to fix any complaint when you first speak to it,
  • have a written complaints handling process,
  • meet certain time frames to resolve complaints that cannot be fixed immediately, and
  • monitor complaints and identify emerging issues.

If you are not satisfied with how your service provider has handled your complaint after you have given it a reasonable opportunity to deal with that complaint, you can complain to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) for external dispute resolution. Contact the TIO at www.tio.com.au.

Compliance with the TCP Code

Compliance with the TCP Code is important. Service providers are required to certify their compliance with the TCP Code annually to Communications Compliance. Communications Compliance will publish on its website names of service providers which have submitted the required documents. They will also publish the names of service providers who have received a formal warning or direction to comply from the Australian Communications and Media Authority for failure to submit the required documents.

For detailed information about the TCP Code go to https://www.commsalliance.com.au/Documents/all/codes/c628.