28 February 2005
Government Welcomes New Industry Code of Practice for Telecommunications Consumer Contracts
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan today welcomed the release of the Consumer Contracts industry code of practice by the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF).
"The new code of practice is an important milestone in the Government's self-regulatory regime for telecommunications," Senator Coonan said.
"The Code is a result of industry and consumer representatives working through some sensitive issues and coming up with a set of rules that both parties consider fair and reasonable."
The code was released by ACIF after an intensive consultation process involving industry participants and consumer bodies.
"I applaud the efforts that ACIF itself has put into this code development process, to achieve a timely and effective outcome," Senator Coonan said.
The Australian Government has been actively involved in addressing the issue of consumer contracts in telecommunications, advocating the development of a code of practice under telecommunications legislation. The Government wrote to the CEOs of all the major carriers last year to seek their commitment to the code development process.
"The code will provide an important safeguard against unduly complicated and unfair contracts in the telecommunications sector," Senator Coonan said.
"It will complement a range of legislative provisions, both State and Federal, dealing with contractual fairness across all sectors."
A common complaint about telecommunications contracts is they are too long and complex for consumers to understand and contain unfair terms that are biased in favour of the service provider. This new code of practice provides assurance for Australian consumers that contracts offered by telecommunications service providers will be simpler, fairer and more transparent.
"I understand that this code is the first of its type internationally, in setting out rules to apply to a particular industry sector about the fairness of individual contract terms and the length and complexity of contracts," Senator Coonan said.
The code of practice has been submitted to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) who will assess whether the code will provide adequate community safeguards, in order to determine whether to register the code. On registration, the ACA would be able to direct providers to comply with code rules.
"I urge all service providers to examine their contracts and bring them into line with the code rules as soon as practicable," Senator Coonan said.
Under the code, service providers must make their contracts consistent with code rules within six months of code registration.
Telecommunications companies will remain subject to general trade practices legislation, including the Trade Practices Actand relevant state and territory fair trading laws.
The Government will continue to monitor industry developments and respond where necessary to facilitate industry outcomes in the best interests of consumers.
The Code is available from the ACIF website at www.acif.org.au/publications/codes