The Government's approach to consumer safeguards
The Australian Government promotes an open, competitive telecommunications market so Australians can have access to innovative and affordable services. The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 supports this aim.
The Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Act 2010 also protects consumers by:
- increasing competition in the telecommunications industry
- strengthening consumer safeguards
- giving the Australian Communications and Media Authority the power to develop industry standards.
Consumer Safeguards Review
The Government has released the terms of reference for a review to prepare the telecommunications consumer protections framework for a post-2020 environment.
The Consumer Safeguards Review will be undertaken in three parts:
- redress and complaints handling
- reliability of telecommunications services, and
- choice and fairness in the retail relationship between the customer and their provider.
Small business consumers
Small businesses have unique needs and challenges when choosing and managing telco services. The Department's tip sheet helps small businesses find suitable products and services for their business and provides guidance when things go wrong.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is a free and independent alternative dispute resolution body for small business and residential consumers in Australia who have unresolved complaints about their telephone or internet services.
The TIO aims to settle disputes quickly in a fair, objective and non-bureaucratic way, looking at:
- what the law says
- good industry practice
- what is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.
You can complain to the TIO about issues with a telecommunications service by:
Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code
The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code is an industry code developed by the peak industry body, Communications Alliance and registered with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The code sets minimum standards for telecommunications providers in their interactions with customers. This includes standards for advertising services, contracts, billing, sales techniques and redress mechanisms.
The TIO can investigate breaches of the code.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is the government agency responsible for the regulation of telecommunications services.
The ACMA works closely with industry to:
- develop active self-regulation
- make sure companies comply with licence conditions, codes and standards.
The ACMA monitors the effect of regulations to ensure they are responsive to the community's needs.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is Australia's national consumer and competition regulator. The ACCC:
- regulates the telecommunications infrastructure that's needed for retail services
- promotes competition and fair trade to benefit consumers, businesses and the community
- enforces the Australian Consumer Law, which protects consumers from unconscionable conduct and unfair contract terms.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is the peak body that represents Australian consumers on telecommunications issues. ACCAN works with industry and government to promote the availability, accessibility and affordability of telecommunications services.
The ACCAN's tip sheets help consumers choose a telecommunications service that best meets their needs.
Low-income consumers can get a Telephone Allowance to help them pay their phone bills. The allowance is available for pensioners and other people on some Centrelink benefits. The rate is paid quarterly as part of the Pension Supplement. It's slightly higher for people with a home internet service.
Telstra also offers concessions on their home fixed-line services to eligible customers who receive Australian Government income support. This includes the Access for everyone' package that Telstra must offer as part of its carrier license conditions.
Consumer online safety and security
The Australian Government has a comprehensive cybersafety plan for law enforcement, filtering and education.
Stay Smart Online has valuable information for Australian internet users on cybersecurity issues and the simple measures they can take to help protect themselves, their family and their computers, phones, and other devices.