At $6,275 per word, we deserved better

Based on estimates in the Federal Government’s Regulatory Impact Statement on the 2012 TCP Code, the average cost of implementing a single word of the 2012 TCP Code, during set up and Year 1 of operation, will be $6,275. At that price, you’d think the spelling, punctuation and grammar would be perfect.

$6,275 a word

That’s what the math says when you take estimated $156,000,000 costs of set up and first year compliance and divide them by the 24,860 operative words of the Code.

So why are there basic failures of language?

Try this embarrassing example

Clause 5.7 of the Code deals with the important topic of Direct Debit arrangements.  Among other things, it says that:

A Supplier offering Direct Debit as a payment facility for a Telecommunications Service must … provide details of a Direct Debit transaction to the Customer, or former Customer’s nominated financial institution in a timely manner, to ensure the transaction to take place as close as possible to the due date for payment …

This means that a supplier must provide transaction details to the customer or, in the case of a former customer, their nominated financial institution.  Seems bonkers, but that’s what it says. But it only says that because it’s written in broken English.

What it meant to say was not:

  • provide details of a Direct Debit transaction to the Customer, or former Customer’s nominated financial institution


  • provide details of a Direct Debit transaction to the Customer‘s, or former Customer’s nominated financial institution

or even:

  • provide details of a Direct Debit transaction to the Customer, or former Customer’s nominated financial institution of the Customer or former Customer

The comma in the original is bizarrely out of place, and combined with the mistaken mixing of cases (the objective case customer before the comma and possessive case former customer’s after it) it creates an obligation on the supplier to give transaction not to a customer’s bank, so it can process the DD, but to the customer him/herself.

Bad writing from a fourteen year old.  Unforgivable at $6,275 per word.

Is that all there is?

Heck, no.

Who proofread clause 4.1.2(a)(ii)D?

where the Offer is not unlimited, the cost (prior to any discounts being applied) of making a 2 minute Standard National Mobile Call (including flagfall where applicable;

Or clause 4.3.1(b)?

Ongoing monitoring: ensure the conduct of its Sales Representatives is monitored periodically to see how they interact with Consumers, and take steps to address emerging or systemic deficiencies in the sales conduct; and.

Or the thoroughly ambiguous clause 4.1.3(i)?

International Roaming: information about whether a Consumer needs to take any action to activate international roaming on the Supplier’s Telecommunications Product (such as applying for activation of this functionality with the Supplier) or deactivate international roaming and the basic Charges to send SMS, make and receive standard calls and for data usage on the Supplier’s Telecommunications Product from different countries (including that roaming Charges may be higher than Charges for international calls from Australia and data usage may be more expensive, and that Customers may be charged for both making and receiving calls while overseas) in a prominent and/or easily navigable and/or easily searchable position on the Supplier’s website;

Or the mangled clause 5.2.1(a)(ii)?

the Charges for that Billing Period are for the same fixed amount in each Billing Period;

Or the impenetrable clause 5.7.1(c)?

except where clause 5.2.1(a) applies or where otherwise agreed between the Supplier and the Customer, must allow the Customer, or former Customer, not less than 10 Working Days to check the Bill or if no Bill is required, all applicable Charges, before the associated Direct Debit transaction occurs;

Or clause 6.13.1(a) with its mis-placement of the words ‘in writing’?

Arrangement details: supply to a Customer, or former Customer’s details of the Financial Hardship arrangement on request in writing and through any other means agreed between the Customer, or former Customer and the Supplier;

Or the bizarre, anti-customer requirement in clause 6.14.1(b)?

Restarting Credit Management action: restart Credit Management action when one or more of the above conditions are met (as applicable to the Customer’s, or former Customer’s individual situation) and the Supplier is unable, using reasonable steps, to make contact with the Customer, or former Customer; and

Or the disastrous clause 7.2.11?

Provided that a [Losing] Supplier complies with the terms of this clause 7.11 in circumstances where a Transfer of a Customer’s Telecommunications Service arises as a result of a sale of the [Losing] Supplier’s business or a Corporate Reorganisation, the [Losing] Supplier is not required to comply with the other provisions of this Chapter in relation to such a Transfer except for clauses 7.6, 7.7 and 7.9.

Or the astonishing clauses 7.12.1 and 7.12.2?

To be fair …

The 2012 TCP Code is largely a rehash of badly written codes going back most of a decade (when the codes were a bit of a joke and nobody put much effort into them.)

And they are largely the product of multiple committees, and we know how hard it is to draft in committee.

But (just like service providers’ often plausible excuses for non-compliance) those excuses only go so far.  The TCP Code demands that every provider attests its compliance in writing, every year.  At $6,275 per word, the document should provide a much more certain and objective benchmark for that attestation.



About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
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