Critical Information Summary: Beware the trap

Critical Information Summary trapCritical Information Summaries are starting to appear in the wild, despite the fact that they are not mandatory until 1 March 2013.  But there’s a gotcha that is already catching out some telcos.  They are forgetting to include the ‘single price’ of a plan as required by the Australian Consumer Law.

It’s true that clause 4.1.2 of the TCP Code sets out the information required by the Code to appear in each CIS, and that doesn’t include the total plan cost.  But the TCP Code cannot modify the Australian Consumer Law, so you can’t read clause 4.1.2 as being an exhaustive statement of what’s required.  If the ACL requires additional info … and it does … you must include that as well.

The “single price” law

Section 48 of the Australian Consumer Law states:

A person must not, in trade or commerce, in connection with: (a) the supply, or possible supply, to another person of goods or services of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption; or (b) the promotion by any means of the supply to another person, or of the use by another person, of goods or services of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption make a representation with respect to an amount that, if paid, would constitute a part of the consideration for the supply of the goods or services unless the person also specifies, in a prominent way and as a single figure, the single price for the goods or services.

Where a Critical Information Summary sets out the monthly charge for a plan with a minimum term, as clause 4.1.2(a)(ii)A of the TCP Code requires, that triggers the operation of section 48 of the ACL, and the CIS will breach that section if it does not also prominently state the total contract price.

The TCP Code does also require the single price

It’s worth noting that even though the CIS requirements in clause 4.1.2 of the TCP Code do not refer to the single price law, clause 4.2.1(k) picks up the point:

A supplier must not advertise or promote a periodic price to be paid for a Telecommunications Product without also Prominently Displaying (but not necessarily as prominent as the periodic price) the “single price” as defined in the Competition and Consumer Act.

So make no mistake:  The Australian Consumer Law applies to your CIS, and where the ACL mandates inclusion of a single price, your CIS must include it …. prominently.

About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
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