Zombie legal myth rises from the crypt

“The TCP Code is just a code, you know. It isn’t an Act of Parliament. So don’t let them fool you into worrying about it.” We’re assured that this idiotic statement is being heard again in 2012, years after we thought it was buried.

Nearly four years ago, we explained on our sibling site CSP Central why it’s a myth that ‘telco codes aren’t the law’. In a nutshell, ACMA can easily push a button that creates a situation where a breach of the Code becomes a breach of the Telecommunications Act. And ACMA is screaming from the rooftops that it plans to push that button lots more often.

ACMA talks about ‘more investigations, more directions, more court cases‘ … Let us explain what that means …

ACMA’s Last Chance Button

The legal button that ACMA can push is called a ‘Direction to Comply’. Basically, it’s a document issued by the authority to a telco, telling it that it must obey the Code, or be in breach of the Telco Act.

When ACMA General Manager Jennifer McNeill recently read the Riot Act at a Comms Alliance event, she used the expression ‘more investigations, more directions, more court cases’. The word ‘directions’ here didn’t mean ‘street directions’ or ‘stage directions’. McNeill was referring to ‘Directions to Comply’. The process she was talking about was:

  • more investigations of telcos,
  • followed by more Directions to Comply,
  • followed by more court cases punishing non-compliance.

Make sense now?

Who’s reviving the myth?

Wishful thinkers and bush lawyers, we suspect.  The same sort of people who reckon sucking a tic tac will beat the breathalyser.

Ask yourself this

Penalties of up to $250k per breach apply for breaching the Code after a ‘direction’ has been given.  If you were stung, say, $100k for breaching the TCP Code, would you laugh it off and tell your mates, ‘We were only fined $100k under a Code, you know, not an Act’?

We doubt it.

About Peter Moon

A telco lawyer with a truckload of experience
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