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Telcos required to give more info about pricing

More rules for how telcos sell and market service come into effect 1 March, as part of the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code.

Starting tomorrow, telcos must provide "Critical Information Summaries" to customers at the point of sale. The summaries will include information on unit and volumetric pricing for included value plans and a warning about roaming costs.

Under another new rule, telcos must include the previous two months billing information on each bill.

In advertising, telcos must stop using the term "cap" for existing offers unless they are referring to a hard cap. That follows up a rule that took effect 1 September banning the term in new offers.

And telcos must respond to compliance monitoring requests by the new Communications Compliance (CommCom) body that was set up under the new TCP code. CommCom and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) plan to work together to enforce the TCP code.

On April 1, providers will need to attest to CommCom that they are compliant with the TCP code or submit an action plan saying how they will become compliant.

The ACMA can take enforcement action if a telco fails to comply with the industry-developed code. It can issue a direction requiring the provider to comply, and if the company doesn't heed the direction, the agency can take the provider to federal court and seek civil penalties of up to $250,000.

However, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has voiced doubts that this will be effective. In a recent letter to Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, ACCAN's CEO, Teresa Corbin, wrote: "The big issue here is that the ACMA does not at present have strong enough powers to enforce the Code."

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said members of his industry association have already begun complying with the new TCP code.

"Many service providers have taken the initiative to introduce Critical Information Summaries ahead of the Code schedule," he said.

"This improved information flow is helping customers better understand what they are buying and is contributing to the strong recent falls in complaints to the [Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)]."

The ACMA has been rolling out TCP code rules in a phased approach. Spend management tools will be phased in starting 1 September 2013.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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