Conroy told the ACCAN annual conference in Sydney "I am providing the ACMA with new powers to make service provider determinations on consumer protection matters. This will provide the ACMA with the flexibility to introduce consumer protection measures if satisfactory consumer outcomes are not being delivered [through the TCP code]."
A service provider determination is a rule making power that applies to all service providers and is enforceable by the ACMA. Conroy said: "Examples of the kinds of rules that may be made are; rules about advertising, marketing and promotion; rules about notifying customers of terms and conditions; rules about enabling customers to monitor their charges; rules about dealing with a customer's complaint about services."
However Conroy made it clear that he expected the exercise of these new powers by the ACMA to be a 'last resort' and that the ACMA would be required to undertake "effective consultation" before making any determination.
"I still expect industry to take primary responsibility for achieving the outcomes we all seek for consumers," he said.
The ACMA has used the threat of imposing standards - to get the telecoms industry to lift its game, which it did with the development of the new TCP Code.
The process started back in 2010 when the ACMA launched its 'Reconnecting the Customer' enquiry. When it released its final version in August 2011, the ACMA said it was "giving industry five months in which to develop a revised [consumer protection] code dealing with the matters that [the ACMA] considers must be changed. If those changes cannot be made within that time, the ACMA will intervene directly to implement its proposals by way of a standard."
Under the regime at that time the ACMA was unable to impose a standard without first giving the industry the opportunity of developing a code to address its concerns. It will now no longer have to wait for this to happen if it believes the current code is not effective.
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