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

1. Scope and Purpose

This paper provides a brief overview of consumer concerns with the current co-regulatory consumer protection framework in the telecommunications sector in Australia.

CHOICE, like a number of other consumer organisations, has contributed to the development of industry codes of conduct in many industries including the telecommunications industry. CHOICE has for some time been frustrated by the poor overall standard of consumer protection outcomes delivered in the telecommunications industry.

CHOICE commissioned Galexia to assist document the problems with current arrangements and put forward our suggestions about ways in which better systems could be developed. Galexia have undertaken research in response to our brief and a limited amount of consultation with experienced consumer representatives from a range of consumer interests.

CHOICE supports a consistent approach to the development of consumer protection frameworks in Australia:

It is time to put consumers at the heart of market reforms across all sectors of the economy. This will require national leadership on consumer policy issues, rather than fragmentation across different levels of government, and fragmentation across different industry sectors. At present there is an unproductive ‘silo’ approach to consumer issues across different portfolios – financial services, health, product safety, telecommunications, energy, food and so on. This contrasts with the approach found in the UK and other parts of Europe and North America, where a coherent cross-market approach to consumer policy and competition policy can be found.[1]

The telecommunications sector is one sector that could benefit from alignment with a national best practice approach to consumer protection, particularly in relation to the use of co-regulation.

This paper examines the consumer protection framework in the telecommunications sector, compares this framework to co-regulation in other sectors, and makes recommendations for improvements in six key areas:

  • Legislation;
  • Code development;
  • Code content;
  • Dispute resolution;
  • Code compliance monitoring and code enforcement; and
  • Code review.

[1] CHOICE, Submission to the Review of Australia’s Consumer Policy Framework Issues Paper, 4 June 2007, <>.