ACIF releases new telco code

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An industry group has issued a set of rules for consumer telecommunications contracts that is expected to stop service providers acting unfairly or confusing their customers.

An industry group has issued a set of rules for consumer telecommunications contracts that is expected to stop service providers acting unfairly or confusing their customers.

Telecommunications industry group Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) -- said its new Consumer Contracts Code was the first in the world developed to stop a specific industry imposing “unfair or unintelligible” contracts on consumers and small businesses.

The new code, expected to apply to 20 million landline, mobile and internet service contracts, had addressed complaints that many telecommunications contracts were too complicated, legalistic or technical in their wording, ACIF said.

It would also stop service providers varying terms and conditions after customers had signed up for a service, without giving them a chance to pull out, according to the organisation.

Anne Hurley, chief executive officer at the ACIF, said the code was a great step forward.

“It demonstrates how service providers and end-users can work together to deliver effective consumer protection,” Hurley said.

“The outcome shows that service providers and their customers have a mutual interest in ensuring contracts are fair and easily understood.”

The code must be registered by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), which would enforce it. Service providers were expected to have to comply within six months of its ACA registration, ACIF said.

“Existing contracts for fixed line phone services must also comply within that timeframe. Where consumers have mobile phone or internet services without a fixed contract period, the provider must offer a new contract that complies,” according to the ACIF.

ACIF had scheduled industry briefings on the code -- and the related pricing, terms and conditions code -- in Sydney on 17 March and Melbourne on 24 March.

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