Consumer Action Law Centre together with WEstjustice made a submission to the CommsAlliance on the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code Draft (DR C628:2018) (draft Code), which has been produced following the review of the existing Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code).
While the draft Code includes many improvements, further amendments are necessary. We agree with Australian Communications Consumer Action Network’s outstanding concerns in relation to:
- Selling practices
- Credit assessment
- Financial hardship
- Customer service
- Customer access to records
If the final revised TCP Code fails to adopt effective consumer safeguards in these areas, the case for direct regulation of the telecommunications sector will be irrefutable.
One of the many areas of concern for our community lawyers and financial counsellors is the irresponsible provision of telecommunication services, where target and commission-based selling puts profit before good consumer outcomes. Retail providers are setting people up to fail by handing out multiple, expensive post-paid contracts upon request in a single visit to a store without a realistic (or any) assessment of a person’s capacity to pay. When this leads to financial hardship, unmanageable debts and impaired credit reports that exclude people from mainstream finance and rental accommodation, there is little accountability from the provider and no redress for the customer. Poverty and family violence are cursorily recognised in hardship applications, and complaint processes are time consuming and often ineffective.
The TCP Code must be amended to introduce a robust mechanism, based on the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth), to assess the affordability of post-paid contracts, including whether the product meets the customer’s needs and whether it can be afforded without substantial hardship. These basic requirements already apply to credit cards and payday loans of $2000 – less than the total liability on many post-paid phone contracts.
It’s time to end the special treatment for telecommunication providers.
180813 Submission - Draft TCP Code - CALC WEstjustice