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Report urges transparency in Australian telco regulation enforcement
Wed, 3rd Apr 2024

A newly published report by the Centre for Media Transition has called for improved public information on the enforcement actions of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Titled 'The Enforcement of Telecommunications Consumer Protections', the report was commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and examined enforcement actions taken by the ACMA from January 2010 to June 2023 to ensure compliance with consumer protection rules.

According to the key findings and recommendations of the study, there is a strong requirement for ACMA to increase transparency and accountability concerning how they enforce telecommunications regulations. The Centre for Media Transition has suggested the establishment of a public register of enforcement actions.

The report uncovered that from January 2010 to June 2023, the total payment from the entire telecommunications sector in infringement fines for breaches of consumer protection regulations may have reached $6,143,160, based on public data. Additionally, over the same period, the ACMA obtained only three civil penalty orders against telecommunications providers, amounting to $1,077,625 for violations of consumer protection rules.

ACCAN Acting CEO Gareth Downing emphasised the significance of the research in aiding policymakers, regulators, and the industry to enhance trust within the telecommunications sector. "This report provides another piece of evidence for reforming the way telecommunications are regulated in Australia. It is a resource for policymakers as they consider the policy settings for the use of enforcement mechanisms," he said.

Dr Downing pointed out that the research could help determine whether fines for non-compliance should be increased and whether ACMA should be able to take actions other than a formal warning or direction to comply when the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code is initially breached. It can also assist in identifying more severe penalties for providers who cause significant consumer harm.

"We urge the government to consider this report and respond by improving publicly available information about telco enforcement, and strengthening the resourcing and powers of the ACMA," Dr Downing added.

It was also suggested in the report that the ACMA heavily relies on warnings and other non-financial actions in ensuring compliance. In light of this, Dr Downing mentioned that critical matters like domestic and family violence are too important to be left to industry codes and should be subject to direct regulation.

ACCAN extended its congratulations to the Centre for Media Transition on the launch of the report. "We look forward to engaging with industry, government and regulators on these critical issues," Dr Downing concluded. A public webinar will follow the release of the comprehensive report on Thursday 18th April, and the report authors will be available for comment on request.