Tuesday, 17 December 2019 13:32

Government review to ‘overhaul’ protections for telecoms consumers Featured

By
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher

The Federal Government is overhauling consumer protections to "better reflect the way that modern telecommunication services" are delivered in Australia.

The Government's announcement follows the release on Tuesday of The Consumer Safeguards Review Part B report which contains 14 recommendations to implement a framework to support "the reliability of modern communication services".

The Part B report is the second stage of the Government’s three-part Consumer Safeguards Review which is designed to prepare the telecommunications industry for a post-2020 operating environment when the National Broadband Network (NBN) is fully rolled out.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher said the existing consumer safeguards were designed for voice services delivered over the copper telephone network.

“The consumer safeguards we have in place today have been in place for more than 20 years and are highly prescriptive. As Australia’s telecommunications environment continues to change, and with the National Broadband Network rollout finishing next year, now is the right time to modernise the consumer protection framework,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The report’s recommendations are designed to support Australians to get and stay connected to fixed voice and broadband services. I have asked my Department to work closely with industry, consumer groups and regulators to progress this work.”

The Government says the final stage of the Consumer Safeguards Review will consider choice and fairness in the retail relationship between the customer and their provider, and it will consult on the final stage in early 2020.

Commenting on the Government's announcement, John Stanton, the CEO of Communications Alliance, the body representing telecommunications consumers, said: “Keeping telecommunications regulations up to date with changing technologies and consumer expectations is an important task. This report seeks to strike a balance between consumer protection and consumer benefit through competition, innovation, and increased value, and we look forward to consulting further with Government on implementation of the recommendations”.

“We are pleased to see that the Consumer Safeguards Review Part B Final report reflects elements of the industry feedback on the initial Departmental recommendations and the consultation undertaken by the Minister and the Department during the past year.

“I believe it paves the way for providers to make continuity commitments in ways that support consumer choice and preferences, are appropriate to providers’ business models and promote competitive differentiation."

Stanton said “the move away from some elements of the initial Part B proposals removes some potentially anticompetitive outcomes, which had caused concern within industry and could have stifled innovation and created increased costs for consumers”.

“We are reviewing and considering the detailed recommendations in the report, but support the approach, including that outdated regulation should be removed, implementation should actively avoid the risk of duplicative regulation, and competition will bring the most benefit to consumers. Industry is pleased that the recommendations provide a framework for stakeholders of all types to contribute to developing the detail and implementation of the recommendations – which should lead to better, more informed outcomes.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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