Bizarre TCP Code rule: Telcos must make customers pay!

It’s true … The TCP Code contains a few bonkers things, but nothing more weird than the clause that requires telcos to take action against their customers even if they don’t want to.

You might have thought that a set of rules that is expected to cost industry $156,000,000 in its establishment phase and first year would be written pretty well. You’d be disappointed. And section 6.14.1(b) should go down in code drafting infamy.

What it says

Normally, we’d set out in full a Code passage we wanted to analyse. But this one is so badly drafted that we don’t want to befuddle innocent readers. So we’ll just summarise it.

Clause 6.13.1(a) says that a telco must suspend credit management action if a financial hardship arrangement with a customer is under discussion or in place. Nice. But that rule doesn’t apply in three specified circumstances. In those cases the telco isn’t obliged to suspend credit management action. Fair enough.

The bonkers bit

But then comes clause 6.14.1(b). It says that if any of those three exceptions arise, and the telco can’t make contact with the customer, the telco must re-start credit management action. Not ‘may’ re-start it … ‘must’. In some cases that might be complied with by steps other than debt recovery. But in others it leaves the service provider with no option but to take steps to collect the debt. If it fails to do so, it breaches the Code.

So even if the telco wanted not to pursue the debt out of pure kindness or on a commercial basis, it would have to continue with collection steps. The Code says so.

Of course that is too silly for words. Of course the regulators will do the sensible thing and pretend the nutty words aren’t there. But the question remains: When highly paid lawyers have worked on the drafting, and teams of industry experts have pored over the text, and a national regulator has resolved to register it, why are there any really dumb things in the document?


About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
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