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Thursday, 24 June 2010 19:42

Comms Alliance reviews consumer protection rules

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Communications Alliance has set up a steering group to review the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code that regulates the behaviour of service providers in billing, credit management, complaint handling, customer contracts and the information contained in advertising. Significantly industry and consumer representatives will have to reach consensus if changes are to be made.

The members are: Fay Holthuyzen, independent chair; Allan Asher, CEO, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN); Brenton Philp, general manager compliance strategies branch, ACCC; Kath Silleri, executive manager content and consumer, ACMA; John Stanton, CEO of Communications Alliance; Keith Besgrove, first assistant secretary digital economy services, DBCDE; John Horan, general counsel of Primus; David Quilty, group managing director, public policy & communications, Telstra. A second consumer representative will be appointed shortly.

Stanton welcomed the appointment of Holthuyzen, described as "a former deputy secretary of the Federal Department of Communications and a widely respected figure in the telecommunications industry," as the independent chair of the Steering Group.

In the coming days the group will release an issues paper that will "outline key areas of focus for the TCP Code review as well as initial contributions by regulators, consumer groups and the industry in relation to the Code."

It will then seek public comment on the issues paper and make a recommendation on whether to revise the Code and setting the terms of reference for the revision.

However the only members eligible to vote on this decision will be the two industry members - Quilty and Horan - and the two consumer representatives - Asher and one yet to be appointed. So they will have to achieve consensus if changes are to be made.

Stanton told iTWire that this was the first time such an arrangement had been put in place.

In earlier times consumer bodies have been highly critical of Comms Alliance's (and its predecessor ACIF's) code development process claiming it was difficult of them to have any influence in industry dominated working committees.

Holthuyzen said that, if it were decided that the Code required revision, several working committees would be established, reporting to the Steering Group. Comms Alliance aims to deliver a revised code to the ACMA for registration early on 2011.

Once registered conformance to the code by all service providers will be mandatory.

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