Consumer Protection in the Communications Industry: Moving to best practice - Issues Paper (July 2008)

2.1. Legislation

A range of generic consumer protections applies to telecommunications, through legislation such as the Trade Practices Act 1974[2] and the Privacy Act 1998.[3] Specific consumer protections for the telecommunications sector arise in the Telecommunications Act 1997[4] and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999.[5]

The Telecommunications Act 1997 has the following overall Objectives:

Section 3 – Objects (relevant extracts):
(d) to promote the development of an Australian telecommunications industry that is efficient, competitive and responsive to the needs of the Australian community; and
(h) to provide appropriate community safeguards in relation to telecommunications activities and to regulate adequately participants in sections of the Australian telecommunications industry.
Section 4 – Regulatory Policy:
The Parliament intends that telecommunications be regulated in a manner that:
(a) promotes the greatest practicable use of industry self-regulation; and
(b) does not impose undue financial and administrative burdens on participants in the Australian telecommunications industry;
but does not compromise the effectiveness of regulation in achieving the objects mentioned in Section 3.

However, the Act does not contain a set of consumer protection principles for telecommunications consumers. It also does not contain comprehensive consumer protection provisions. This is a significant contrast to consumer protection legislation in other sectors. The result is a significant level of reliance on industry codes of conduct, without any guidance on the minimum content of such codes.

[2] Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth), <>.

[3] Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), <>.

[4] Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth), <>.

[5] Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (Cth), <>.