We’re ACMA, the fresh Code people.

Earlier this week, ACMA registered a simplified version of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code). The previous ‘refresh’ was in 2012 and the TCP Code remained unnecessarily lengthy and confusing.

This week’s refresh has made the TCP Code shorter, clearer and more concise. Those things bring some relief to the telco businesses that are required to comply with the TCP Code and who can be penalised if they don’t.

Specifically, the TCP Code has been reduced from 102 pages to 88 pages through the removal of clauses which duplicate other laws, for example:

  1. Clauses concerning information which is misleading, warranties, unfair terms and the description of products, which are covered by the Australian Consumer Law.
  2. Call recording and clauses concerning credit reporting agencies, which are covered by the Privacy Act 1988.

Carriers will also note the amendments to clauses 4.5 and 4.6.3 of the revised code. Clause 4.5 concerns customer contracts and suppliers are no longer required to make available on their website:

  1. Their standard form customer contracts.
  2. Information on expired offers.

Suppliers are only required to make the above documents available to consumers generally and on the request of a customer.

Clause 4.6.3 concerns personal information, and now only applies to suppliers in circumstances where they are not required to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles (i.e. small businesses).

The stated reason for the revision is that “...it now provides greater flexibility to industry in its information provision.” (ACMA media release 62/2015 – 3 December 2015).

There is still a long way to go to make the TCP Code more user friendly, however, the recent revisions are a step in the right direction.

For more information about the TCP Code and your compliance obligations contact Emma Lewis of Telco7 Legal Pty Ltd on 1300 835 267. 

Data, da...ta...da...ta...da...ta...

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Last week we attended the annual MVNO Asia conference in Bangkok. While the topics covered were many and varied (and some of the speakers were certainly more engaging than others: Jason Lo and Farid Yunis, CEOs of Tune Talk and RedONE respectively, take a bow), two of the most common themes were the explosion of data use and how MVNOs need to react.

As one speaker put it, "It's all about data...da...ta...da...ta...da...ta...".

Customers' appetite for data is voracious, their expectations on price are keener than ever and the shift from using mobile handsets to communicate over the mobile network to communicate over top is all but complete.

Operators must keep up, or they will disappear. In the blink of an eye.

The world of seemingly endless data consumerism requires MVNOs to do much more than fill their plans full of data and price it right. Doing that is not strategic. It is obvious.

It requires having a deep understanding of how their customers are consuming data, in what amounts and then building a predictive model for future usage patterns. Armed with that ‘big data about data’, the MVNO can negotiate with its network operator to sharpen the MVNO’s competitiveness in the market and secure partnerships with content providers that offer what the MVNO’s customers want (or will otherwise consume in the future).

Put simply, MVNOs must enable their customers with the data they want, for what they want to use it for and for what they are prepared to pay. Fail to do any of those things and your customers will not only go digital with one of your competitors, they will give you the digit on the way out.

Yatango Mobile: another telco down the gurgler

Oh Yatango, you promised so much. You delivered less. And now you are in voluntary administration.

Where did it go so wrong?

Perhaps you chose the wrong wholesale partner in Optus. Then again, Amaysim has made a good fist of being an MVNO partnering with Optus. So that must not be the reason for your failure.

Perhaps you targeted the wrong market? Young urbanites. The hip. The happening. Come to think of it, that can't be the reason because the same market is targeted and coveted by carriers (including Optus) and other MVNOs.

Perhaps you tried to be a little too 'different' by investing in a system that allows customers to build their own plans? And perhaps that was a very expensive system which ultimately, didn't generate the number of customers needed to achieve scale and a return on investment.

And perhaps you allowed yourself to eat too far into your margins in an effort to win customers. If so, you certainly aren't the only one who has done (and continues to do) that. 

Whatever the reason for your failure, it is a spectacular fall from grace for a company that just a few months ago was touting a listing on the Australian Stock Exchange as part of an attempted $6 million capital raising. Luckily for would-be investors, your financial fragility has become apparent before those people parted with their hard earned.

And luckily for your customers, there are plenty of financially stable telcos (including MVNOs) ready to welcome your customers on board.

Let the churn begin and may the telco with the best offer win.

Teoh's Pretty Good Telecom hangs up on Optus

In a move that will send further shivers down the spine of Optus, TPG has struck a deal with Vodafone to migrate TPG's mobile customers from the Optus, to Vodafone, network.

The move will see 487,000 mobile customers switched from one carrier's mobile network, to another carrier's network, just like that. That is a significant market change.

What a coup for Vodafone and what a disaster for Optus.

Just two days ago, Optus awoke to news of the proposed merger between M2 and Vocus. Optus could barely have worked through the implications for it of that deal since Monday and now, it's staring down the barrel of another market shift that will erode Optus' position. Everywhere Optus looks it is under attack. 

We said two days ago and we say it again now: Optus needs to do something major, fast and bold to reclaim a position of influence in the Australian telco market.

The only thing you will get from fence sitting Optus is splinters. And in delicate parts of your corporate anatomy at that.

Optus, you are in the running to be The Biggest Loser

Telco industry analysts and scribes in Australia woke to news this morning of yet another major merger - this time, Vocus and M2.

We were not in the least surprised, with both of those companies having very aggressively targeted growth in recent times through mergers and acquisitions. Vocus, for example, has only recently completed its merger with Amcom, which saw those two companies join the billion dollar club on the Australian Stock Exchange. And now, in what seems to be the blink of an eye, Vocus and Amcom will be key parts of what is set to become the 4th biggest telco in Australia.

As significant as the announced merger is for the Australian telco market, we will not be surprised if a far more significant merger takes place in the very near future. Like Vodafone and TPG walking down the aisle.

To our mind, the biggest loser from the recent (and ongoing) industry consolidation is Optus. TPG's acquisition of iiNet put Optus into the shade in the fixed line broadband market, the Vocus and Amcom tie-up already threatened Optus' position in the enterprise and government market and now, a supercharged Vocus / Amcom and M2 will pose an even more serious threat to Optus in a swathe of markets. And while Vodafone has not yet pulled the trigger on a major acquisition or merger in Australia, Vodafone's deep pockets and renewed vigour are hurting Optus - big time.

Optus needs to do something major, fast and bold to reclaim a position of influence in the Australian telco market. Base level 'strategies' of deep discounting, throwing dollars at customers and eroding margin to chase acquisition won't get it done. Optus needs to act to shift the market. And that will take a major acquisition or merger, involving many hundreds of millions (or more likely, billions) of dollars.

Find your courage Optus and make it happen. In the words of Donald Trump, "Nothing is easy, but who wants nothing?". 



The art of simple

You want to do a deal with a new corporate or business customer. And they want to do a deal with you. Your respective organisations have spent a lot of time getting to know each other, identifying and then defining the opportunity and reaching agreement on the commercial terms.

Everything is looking sweet.

And then you provide them with a copy of your supply agreement. An agreement that is so one sided in your favour, you wouldn't sign it if you were in the customer's shoes. 

The deal is lost, or if it's not, you spend hours to rescue it and change many of the one sided terms you presented in your agreement because you now know that the deal is more important to your company than having everything its way.

What a spectacular waste of time, energy and money. All caused by an irrational view that the customer should bend to your will because you are the supplier.

Newsflash: you aren't the supplier until the customer deals with you and they won't if you don't put them first. 

Time is money and delay kills deals. Review your company's template supply agreements with those things in mind. And then tell your company's lawyers to simplify those agreements and make them fair, from the customer's perspective. 


Where is the disruption?

Of late, we have been spending a lot of time working in the carrier and MVNO space, with a particular focus on consumer sales.

As part of our work, we have surveyed the competitive landscape and spoken to many third party suppliers of marketing, referral and online comparative services to carriers and MVNOs.

The key takeaway for us from the research we have done, and the discussions we have had, is this: where is the disruption?

For the most part, the carriers and MVNOs are playing copycat and racing each other to the bottom with price cuts, additional plan inclusions, discount offers and seemingly endless margin erosion. The term 'buying the numbers' fits like a glove.

That is not a sustainable strategy, even for telcos with the deepest of pockets. Actually, it's not a strategy at all.

The market is crying out for disruption. Of the genuine kind, not merely a gimmick seeking to masquerade as disruption (data sharing or roll-over anyone)?

Experience tells us that the source of disruption is most likely to be a new entrant, or that the inspiration for the disruption will be a business from a different industry. We have our eyes and ears open to those possibilities as we work with our clients to enable them to disrupt the market, not merely copy what their competitors are doing.

Even copycats don't have more than 9 lives.