Victoria jumps the gun on mobile phone contracts

Statement by the CEO of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Graham Chalker

The mobile phone industry is concerned that the Victorian government has jumped the gun on telecommunications contracts. By not waiting for an orderly and co-ordinated national approach to reviewing contracts, Victoria runs the risk of creating confusion and uncertainty for consumers and industry.

The industry would be most concerned if there was one form of contract in Victoria and another form in other parts of Australia.

That would be confusing for everybody – consumers and mobile phone sellers.

The Victorian government should liaise with the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) and the Australian Communications Industry Forum (ACIF)* to develop a co-ordinated national approach on this important issue.

The mobiles industry takes its consumer protection obligations seriously. A review of telecommunication contracts is already taking place, and the industry is fully supportive of this review and has been an active participant.

The ACA directed ACIF in late 2003 to develop a Code on Contracts. The Code development process includes representatives of consumers, the industry and regulators.

ACIF has already released a draft contracts code for public comment, which closed in November. Once finalised, the Code will be registered with the ACA, which means it is then legally binding on industry.

We believe this process, which has been requested by the Federal Government, provides a co-ordinated, national approach and provides much more certainty for consumers and industry alike than the Victorian legislation. It does this because it deals specifically with communications contracts and provides detailed clear information, and examples, about what is, and is not, acceptable in such contracts.

We call on Victoria to wait until the ACIF process is completed and not go it alone.

*ACIF was set up in 1997 to develop and administer technical and operating arrangements that promote the longer-term interests of end-users and the efficiency and international competitiveness of the Australian Industry.

For more information contact Randal Markey, Manager, Communications, (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550