Legal Insights

The ACMA announces its compliance priorities for 2021–2022

By Brendan Coady

• 18 May 2021 • 1 min read
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On 4 May 2021 Australia’s peak regulator for the communications and media industries, the Australian Communications and Media Authority announced its key compliance priorities for the coming 12 months.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) determines these areas of focus as a result of industry consultation and based on areas that are likely to cause harm to individuals and negative impacts on community generally. These compliance priorities give us important insights into its regulatory agenda and where we are more likely to see the ACMA take enforcement action in the coming year.

The ACMA named the following 6 areas as its target areas for increased regulatory scrutiny:

  1. Protecting vulnerable telecommunications customers
  2. Telecommunications complaint handling for small business
  3. 5G and electromagnetic energy emissions
  4. Phone scams
  5. Financial services marketing
  6. Online gambling

Click on any of these headings below to find out more about conduct that will be the specific focus of the ACMA’s activity over the next 12 months and to understand the relevant rules in place and recent changes to these rules for each compliance topic.

  • 1. Protecting vulnerable telecommunications customers
    The ACMA intends to closely monitor how telecommunications providers are identifying, selling to and generally dealing with vulnerable and disadvantaged customers, and to assess whether the current TCP Code is affording sufficient protection for vulnerable consumers
  • Read more
    In addition to the Competition and Consumer Act administered by the ACCC, and the State and Territory fair trading legislation administered by the State and Territory consumer protection agencies, carriage service providers (those who provide network connectivity services to consumers) (CSPs) and carriage service intermediaries (those who arrange for the supply of carriage services to consumers) (CSIs) in Australia are also required to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code). Suppliers are required to register with, and provide annual compliance attestations to, Communications Alliance, who administers the TCP Code. The TCP Code requires telecommunications service providers to meet some minimum standards in their dealings with vulnerable and disadvantaged customers which currently include: - compliance with the ACCC’s guidance for businesses on sales and contracting practices when dealing with disadvantaged consumers - compliance with TCP Code requirements for conducting collection activities - ensuring sales staff receive appropriate training on interactions with disadvantaged customers - compliance with specific industry guidance about assisting customers experiencing domestic and family guidance.
  • 2. Telecommunications complaint handling for small businesses
    The ACMA has recognised that phone and internet services are crucial for small businesses and will be closely monitoring how long it is taking providers to resolve small business complaints and how harm to small business customers is being mitigated.
  • Read more
    Telecommunications carriers (those who operate active network infrastructure), CSPs and CSIs in Australia are also required to comply with the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018 (Cth) (the Standard). The complaint handling rules under the Standard require providers to: - have a written complaints-handling process, that is transparent and consumer-focused, and supported by appropriate internal complaints handling procedures - adopt a standard approach to what constitutes an urgent complaint - resolve urgent complaints within 2 working days, and explain plans to fix other problems within 15 working days - keep records of complaints monitor complaints data to identify emerging or systemic issues. As of 14 December 2020, the new definition of 'consumer' applies so that the rules in the Standard also apply to complaints from any business or non-profit organisation with an estimated annual telecommunications spend with a single retail telecommunications provider of $40,000 or less. As of 1 April 2021, clarifications to the timeframes and processes for resolving billing complaints under the Standard are also in effect
  • 3. 5G and electromagnetic energy emissions
    The ACMA has announced that it will continue its focus on non-compliance with e-marketing legislation within the financial sector in 2021/2022, with a particular focus on marketing for pay-day lending products (and similar financial products targeted at financially disadvantaged customers), and financial advice.
  • Read more
    The ACMA sets rules under the Radiocommunications (Compliance Labelling - Electromagnetic Radiation) Notice 2014 and Radiocommunications (Electromagnetic Radiation-Human Exposure) Standard 2014 (both made under the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (Cth)) about labelling of equipment and electromagnetic energy emissions limits for radiocommunications transmitters, including wi-fi equipment and 5G equipment. On 25 February 2021 ARPANSA released a new radio wave safety standard specifying revised electromagnetic emission exposure limits for wireless communications equipment based on the updated Standard for Limiting Exposure to Radiofrequency Fields in the 100 KHz to 300 GHz range. The revised standard will not become a licence condition for ARNPANSA licence holders until 1 July 2021, and a compliance grace period will be in place until 1 October 2021 to allow for documentation to be updated to reflect the new standard.
  • 4. Phone scams
    The ACMA will be closely monitoring compliance with these measures to reduce scam calls and will consider whether the existing regulatory instruments need strengthening.
  • Read more
    In December 2020, the ACMA registered the Reducing Scam Calls Code, which requires carriers and CSPs to take certain steps to prevent scam calls that originate over fixed or mobile networks. The Code does not apply to over the top voice applications. Under the Reducing Scam Calls Code, carriers and carriage services providers are required to publish information about scam call related fraud risks and products and services available for blocking suspicious or unwanted calls, as well as steps that an individual can take to reduce the risks of harm from scam calls. The Reducing Scam Calls Code also implements processes for carriers and carriage service providers to share information to help identify suspicious call traffic, trace the origin of a suspicious call and put in place network level blocking of specific calling party calling line identifiers. A carrier or carriage service provider who does not comply with an ACMA direction to comply with the Reducing Scam Calls Code can face penalties of up to $250,000. The Telecommunications (Mobile Number Pre-Porting Additional Identity Verification) Industry Standard 2020 supports the ACMA’s measures to reduce the impact on society from phone scams, and seeks to address the problem of fraudulent mobile number porting. The Standard commenced on 30 April 2020 and requires any mobile carriage service provider and any person who arranges for the supply of mobile carriage services to conduct additional pre-porting customer identity verification checks to verify that the person requesting the port is the individual with rights of use in relation to the number, and has immediate access to the device associated with that mobile service number.
  • 5. Financial services marketing – compliance with the Spam Act
    The ACMA has announced that it will continue its focus on non-compliance with e-marketing legislation within the financial sector in 2021/2022, with a particular focus on marketing for pay-day lending products (and similar financial products targeted at financially disadvantaged customers), and financial advice.
  • Read more
    Electronic marketing (promotions conducted by email or SMS (and even by facsimile for those who still own and use fax machines)) is regulated under the Spam Act 2003, and telemarketing (promotions and surveys conducted using voice calls) is also required to comply with the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 and the Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2017. Collectively these rules set the standards around: - consents required in order to use email addresses and telephone numbers to contact individuals for e-marketing purposes - records of consents that are required to be kept by e-marketers - formal requirements for offering a valid unsubscribe function and time frames for processing unsubscribe requests. The ACMA is the regulator responsible for investigating and conducting enforcement action under these important consumer protection instruments. Since October 2020, the ACMA has had a specific focus on compliance in the financial services sector. In the final quarter of 2020 alone, the ACMA commenced eight separate investigations into non-compliance by companies in the financial services sector and issued compliance warnings to over 400 financial services businesses.
  • 6. Online gambling
    The renewed focus of the ACMA’s enforcement activities in this area will be on organisations who indirectly facilitate the supply of illegal offshore gambling activity in Australia by advertising or linking to illegal services.
  • Read more
    The Interactive Gambling Act 2001 and the Interactive Gambling Industry Code regulate the provision of and marketing of gambling, betting and wagering services provided online, through websites or apps and through voice calls to individuals in Australia (including by offshore operators) and the Act makes certain online services illegal in Australia. In 2019 amendments were introduced into the Act to establish a National Self-Exclusion Register. It is an offence for a licensed interactive gambling provider to provide an interactive gambling service to a registered person, and to conduct telemarketing or e-marketing activities involving direct contact with a registered person.

Need more information on how these compliance authorities may affect your organisation?

Contact the Information Technology team.

By Brendan Coady

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