ACMA to be given extra regulatory powers

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ACMA to be given extra regulatory powers

The Federal Government will amend the Telecommunications Act to give the media watchdog the power to hand out red cards to telecoms providers who abuse self-regulation.

Speaking at the Commsday Summit in Sydney, Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the industry's attempts to self-regulate have failed.

"Under the current regime, emphasis has been given to providing consumer protections in the form of codes of practice developed by industry," Senator Conroy said. "However, in practice, the co-regulatory consumer protection framework has not lived up to expectations."

Echoing demands made by ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel, Conroy said the five-year wait for an industry code around mobile premium services was inadequate.

And he made it clear he was not impressed with that industry's code, submitted to the media regulator Australian Communications and Media Authority  by the Comms Alliance earlier this month.

"I know that many of the people here today are frustrated that the code does not go far enough," he said.

"I understand these concerns. For example, I am disappointed by reports that the code does not include double opt-in and call barring. I feel strongly that these measures would assist to protect consumers against unwanted mobile premium services.

He said ACMA must either register the code or leave consumers with the "current inadequate protections".

Conroy said the Government may yet intervene even though it's the authority's decision to register the code.

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy will review the processes behind the development of consumer industry codes under the Act and today released an issues paper calling for industry input.

"The co-regulatory system we have all inherited, particularly the self-regulatory mechanisms, requires progressive review and strengthening on an ongoing basis," Conroy said. "The review will examine the efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness of the consumer code development processes under the current co-regulatory regime. It will also look at opportunities for improvement."

But code development, Conroy said, is "only one part of the puzzle".

"Effective telecommunications consumer protection should be supported by an increased emphasis on enforcement," he said.

"In relation to the mobile premium services issue that I mentioned earlier, I believe there is scope for industry itself to undertake a more active enforcement role against poor industry behaviour.

"We need to provide ACMA with faster, more effective incentives to encourage compliance with codes and regulations."

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