To really understand the TCP Code, and especially ACMA’s attitude to it, you need to appreciate its statutory basis and the processes that resulted in the Code. So TCPCode.com.au has released Cracking the TCP Code, a podcast that explains it all and overviews the Code.
Together with a companion resources book, the podcast gives lawyers, telco directors and regulatory officers (and anyone who’s really interested in the Code) the background they need to make sense of it. And it’s free.
No doubt, Vodafone put in a huge TCP Code compliance effort. Very likely, it was fully compliant by the deadline of 1 April 2013. And yet within three weeks, it suffered a major compliance failure, when it published a badly deficient advertisement in a prominent newspaper. It just goes to show: compliance never sleeps.
The message that compliance managers need to get across is that the 2012 TCP Code is not a ‘compliance crash diet’. It’s meant to be a new way of running a telco business, a new reality for communications retailing in Australia. One consequence of that is that staff and contractors involved in marketing must factor Code compliance into their design and approval workflow.
We’ll explain how to do that.
ACMA has formally warned Vodafone for breaching the 2012 TCP Code. Any ACMA warning is telco news, especially when it’s to a major service provider. But this one is unusually significant.
We’ll explain why.
ACMA has started its TCP Code enforcement drive with a series of formal warnings, the mildest weapon in its formidable armory. The Authority is obviously testing the water, to see whether the industry will take its warnings seriously. If not, we know what to expect. Chairman Chapman wrote last year:
The ACMA will be taking a much tougher and more directive stance on telco compliance—turning up the heat. You will see more investigations, directions and court cases.
Here’s an outline of the formal warnings so far.
A telco executive remarked to us this week that she was ‘glad that the TCP Code is finished.’ We know what she meant: the race to the line to get a 2013 Attestation Statement was over. But the Code goes on. The TCP Code 2012 isn’t something that the industry had to ‘do’ by 1 April 2013. It’s meant to be the new reality … how telcos ‘live’ from 2012 onwards.
What comes next, now your 2013 Attestation Statement has been lodged?
What has the South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club to do with the TCP Code?
Telcoinabox CEO Damian Kay last week denounced the TCP Code as treating the public like idiots and imposing an unnecessary compliance burden on smaller resellers. He’s wrong on the first count (the code does vital work in protecting consumers against entrenched, often deliberate, poor practices of many telcos) but largely correct on the second.
There are at least two reasons why ACMA promoted regulation that, in the case of too many telcos, is heavy handed, too burdensome and unwarranted.
Learn why this plan doesn’t need usage notifications
It seems that most telcos are aware that usage notification requirements will apply to some customers and some plans from 1 September 2013, but there’s a lot of confusion about the detail. Some telcos are even implementing notification systems when the rules don’t apply to any of their plans.
The rules aren’t written clearly, so Cooper Mills has prepared a detailed guide that explains when they apply, who they apply to, and how they apply. The TCP Code Usage Notifications Guide is in the Compliance Shop for just $129+GST. Try getting a lawyer to analyse the Code and give you a clear written explanation with step by step instructions for that price!
And right away, we’ll give you a tip that may save you from wasting time and money …
Critical Information Summary documents are now compulsory and we’ve lost track of the number of them we’ve been asked to review over the last 48 hours, but amid the blur one thing is very clear: It’s better to keep CIS statements short and sweet. It’s not meant to be a small print version of your Standard Form of Agreement, or an extended and glowing reference for your business and its entire product range.
It’s meant to be a short, clear summary of really important points about a particular product. It’s not a General Information Statement, or a Product Disclosure Booklet. It’s a Critical Information Summary. Two of the three words in its title emphasise that it’s to be pithy and highly concentrated.
The TCP Code and the Australian Consumer Law both deal with unfair contract terms in standard form consumer contracts. In one way, the Code raises the stakes for telcos that include unfair terms in their standard contracts. But in other ways, it creates loopholes.
ACCC’s recently announced push against unfair terms in standard form telco contracts isn’t the first time this has happened in Australia. Back in 2007, when Victoria was the only state with an anti-unfair contract terms law, Consumer Affairs Victoria launched a clean up program directed at a group of large telcos.
At the time, we kept notes of different terms that CAV had problems with, and they make very interesting – even scary – reading in 2013 … especially since some of the senior CAV staff behind the 2007 contract purge are now prominent drivers of the national law.
Want to know what kinds of changes they were pushing telcos to make? We’ll give you the 17 page list of CAV’s positions.