Consumer Action receives 2-3 new calls per week through our legal assistance and worker advice lines or the National Debt Helpline about clients who are negatively affected by unaffordable phone debt.
Telecommunication services, much like energy, should not be treated as providers of a luxury product. Phones are necessary for basic safety and wellbeing (for example, domestic violence helpline, transport, emergency and wellbeing services).
In our response to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) development of their compliance priorities for 2020-21, we support ACMA’s continuation of agency-wide compliance priorities as well as its renewed focus on telecommunications consumer protections from the current financial year.
Industry regulation is only as good as its compliance mechanisms. In our casework, we consistently see widespread non-compliance with the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP Code). When raising breaches of the Code in legal correspondence, telecommunications providers generally do not seem concerned about the consequences of breach.
We agree with the view that compliance with the TCP Code is ‘largely premised on industry goodwill’. Therefore, an increasingly strong compliance and enforcement focus on the telecommunications sector is critical.