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Privacy Amendment Bill to significantly change Act: Communications Alliance

Australian telecommunications industry body, Communications Alliance, has said that the Privacy Amendment Bill will make important and far reaching changes to its Privacy Act. In particular, the Bill will introduce significant changes to the direct marketing rules, credit reporting and the enforcement role and powers of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC).

It said that these changes are of key importance to organisations which collect and use personal information and data, including carriers and carriage service providers; content service providers; and those who engage in credit reporting and providers of credit.

According to Baker & McKenzie partner, James Halliday, the changes will bring about a more consent-based direct marketing system and change of relevance to offshore data.

"This is important because if a communications operator moves data offshore, and there is then a subsequent breach of privacy in relation to that data, the communications operator can be liable for the actions of the offshore agent," he said.

KPMG IT advisory director, Peter McNally, addressed the technology implications of the proposed bill.

He said organisations will have to know who has access to personal information within those companies, where it is located and how it is secured.

"We need to start thinking differently about these problems and not just focus on the boarders of the organisation but also on the practices and processes of the organisation," he said.

Some other implications he mentioned include companies that allow BYOD having access to the corporate network, systems and databases.

"How do we make sure that when we open our network to these devices, that we're not actually creating the weak link?" McNally claimed.

McNally also added that the reforms provide an opportunity for businesses to think about having a personal inventory of businesses processes and practices, as well as understanding the circumstances around which service providers have access to personal information.

There will be a nine-month commencement period for the bill as of the end of November. The Communications Alliance also recently produced the Protecting Our Customers brochure in collaboration with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

It summarises the key reforms to customer service and complaint handling contained in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code that came into force in September this year.

The guide outlines the upgraded requirements in areas including the information consumers receive about a product or service prior to purchasing; rules to ensure accurate advertising; transparency of telecommunications bills; mandatory tools to help consumers manage their monthly spend; more responsive handling of complaints; customer rights when ending a contract; and the new framework designed to ensure that all service providers comply with the Code.

"Better and easily digestible information helps empower consumers to make the most of their telecommunications services, maintain a productive relationship with their service provider and avoid any unwanted surprises," Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said.


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