Advertising rules for telcos revised

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Telecommunications service providers will have to toe the line of a new Australian Communications Industry Forum code when promoting prices, terms and conditions to consumers.

Telecommunications service providers will have to toe the line of a new Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF) code when promoting prices, terms and conditions to consumers.

ACIF has published a revised consumer code on prices, terms and conditions that is expected to keep service providers from using misleading advertising to win consumer business.

Anne Hurley, chief executive at ACIF, said the code dealt with the representations that carriers and service providers made to customers before and after purchasing communications-based product or service.

“This was one of the earliest codes developed after 1997,” she said. “It’s a revision done to take into account contemporary developments.”

Hurley said changes had been made due to issues around the advertising of “free” or $0 handset deals.

“You can’t advertise something -- a bundled service with a handset -- and say that’s free but it has higher payments or early termination penalties,” she said. “[But] they can say,'$0 up front' [for example].”

More care must also now be taken when using the term “unlimited” in advertising. Service providers couldn’t advertise “unlimited” bandwidth when in fact the downloads were limited, for instance, Hurley said.

A special section on mobile phones had been removed to reflect the move of m-commerce into the mainstream. Further revisions had been made to mirror the prevalence of internet technologies, she said.

Language in the code had also been cleaned up to clarify and strengthen the intended message to users and vendors alike. “To make sure the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) can actually enforce it,” Hurley added.

Working with a revised customer contracts code -- due for publication next week -- the new pricing, terms and conditions code would be a better tool for protecting consumers and outlining industry requirements, she said.

The pricing, terms and conditions code relates to all telecommunications goods and services, including promotional material and other information offered to customers.

ACIF, a member-funded organisation, was formed in 1997 to help the communications industry regulate itself through processes, codes and standards.

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