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

2. Consumer Protection Framework in Telecommunications

[ Galexia Dots ]

The consumer protection framework for telecommunications in Australia is based on a form of co-regulation. It includes high level legislation that provides for the development and registration of industry codes of conduct on consumer issues, with a regulator in place to monitor codes of conduct and enforce non-compliance.

In practice the framework is neither co-regulation nor self regulation – it is in a strange position between the two. Worse, it is ineffective. As will be seen in this section, the legislation itself is silent on consumer protection issues, the multitudes of codes of conduct are not subject to a meaningful system of signing and compliance, and monitoring and enforcement are applied sparingly and inconsistently.

There is insufficient direction (provided in legislation or otherwise) about the considerations that should be taken into account in deciding that a code-based co-regulatory approach should be taken to a particular market problem. For example there is no system for identifying consumer issues that require either more robust enforcement of existing legislative or code based rules or new direct legislative action.

The current co-regulatory regime in telecommunications does not ensure that best practice is achieved in the development, implementation, monitoring and enforcement of codes of conduct.