ACCAN Guide to consumer rights and protection in the communications industry
The consumer movement of the 20th century greatly advanced consumer rights such as the right to satisfaction of basic needs, the right to safety, the right to be informed, and the right to choose. In the digital age of the 21st century, technological innovation is challenging policymakers in ensuring consumer rights and protections are at the centre of policy. This Guide highlights current consumer rights and protections in place in the communications industry in Australia and the debate around them.
There are a series of complex consumer rights and protections in place in the telecommunications sector through an approach that has favoured self-regulation via a series of industry codes and some statutory obligations. However, due in part to large increases in the number of complaints handled by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, there is currently increased attention on customer service and consumer protection.
ACCAN Calls for ‘smart’ regulation in the communications sector by entrenching consumer rights and positive outcomes at the centre of communications policy, and holding service providers accountable for minimum benchmarks of customer service while allowing them flexibility to innovate. Smart regulation is also about looking to the future where telecommunications, the Internet and other areas are converging, and ensuring that consumers are central to regulation across the economy. Such approaches can be seen to take shape in locales internationally.
The amount of regulatory intervention on behalf of consumers is a contentious matter, however. Some believe that market forces will largely protect consumers, as it will ensure that suppliers have incentive to provide quality products at a reasonable price. There is great debate on this topic, including theories such as those from behavioural economics to consider.