Engaging with TCP Code deniers

No, he’s not. ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman has asked his team to go in hard on TCP Code compliance.

Lots of individuals in Australia’s telco industry are right behind the 2012 TCP Code. But it seems that in many companies, somebody appoints themself Chief Code Denier. As part of a strong compliance effort, it’s important to engage them.

We’re not talking about people who come to terms with the Code and form some critical views in the process. We mean folks who typically know little about the Code, or ACMA’s intentions for it.

Here are some strategies for engaging with Code deniers.

Get them involved in a Code Orientation Session

You don’t necessarily need Cooper Mills to run this session, but we have done a lot of them and we know they are effective.

  • We suggest that you begin with an explanation of Australian Standard 3806. This is key to appreciating what compliance involves.
  • Then, run through the table of contents of the TCP Code, with just a few comments on major topics along the way.
  • Then, pick one Chapter and go through it in some detail.
  • Then, run through the compliance monitoring and enforcement regime.
  • Finish with some ACMA material explaining the new approach to enforcement.

We normally find that people who enter the room thinking ‘There’s nothing to this’ leave with a newfound respect for what’s involved and what’s at stake.

Get them to fill in just one Compliance Checklist

Completing a Checklist is a sobering business. We’ve had telcos report that they began believing they’d be ‘pretty much compliant’ and end up realising that 40, 50, 60% of the Checklist boxes were crosses, not ticks.

The Checklists don’t lie. If you really are ‘pretty much compliant’ they’ll tell you so. But your Code denier is likely to prove, to themselves and you, that there’s plenty of work to do.

Get them along to an ACMA outreach session

As part of its pre-enforcement strategy, ACMA has run info sessions for individual telcos. They’re constructive and useful. We haven’t been authorised by ACMA to sell tickets, but we’d guess that if a telco asked for a session it would be welcomed. The Authority is genuinely keen to engage with service providers in the interests of smooth and effective Code compliance.

Let ACMA do most of the talking, and you don’t even have to make the denier wear an ‘I’m the problem guy’ badge. You’ll all walk away with the sense that this time, ACMA is serious about extracting Code compliance from the industry.

A particular case: The offshore stakeholder

Many Aussie telcos have a stakeholder who lives outside Australia. It could be an investor, or the people that run the captive call centre.

There’s often a fundamental failure by people in this position to appreciate that Australian consumer protection law is as developed, and extensive, and powerful as it really is.  They really don’t ‘get it’.  And they certainly don’t appreciate how heavily and seriously regulated the retail telco industry here is.

The first thing is to recognise that’s their perspective.  An easy way to pick them is by mentioning a regulatory compliance budget of, say, $20k for the coming year.  If they choke, they have no idea of the business regulatory environment you’re working in.

It’s essential to change their view, or you’ll constantly be hobbled in your efforts to keep the business out of the way of the regulatory bus.

Try pointing out the extreme powers that Australian regulators have, and the fact that those powers have been regularly increased over the last five years.  Run some of the heavy telco fines past them, and the fact that one commercially successful telco was regulated out of existence recently … google VIPtel.

Consider getting them over to Australia for some good meals (preferably not at the Melbourne cafe advertising ‘Chapman’s Chicken’) and a reality check on Australian regulation.

One way or another, you need them on board the effort.




About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
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