Mr John Stanton
Chief Executive Officer
By email to: [email redacted]
Dear Mr Stanton
Submission on the draft Calling Number Display Guideline
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comment on the proposal by Communications Alliance to deregister the Calling Number Display Code C522:2007(Code) and replace it with a more concise Calling Number Display GuidelineDR G522:2015 (Guideline). I understand that one of the key differences between the Code and the Guideline is that the Code is binding on organisations covered by it and can be enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, whereas the Guideline is not.
As the explanatory statement to the Guideline says, CND introduces potential risks to privacy where participation is on an opt-out basis, and can result in disclosure of personal information to a call recipient without the knowledge of the caller.
In light of this risk, it is important that the Guideline include reasonable and proportionate protections to address these privacy risks.
My comments on the draft guideline are set out below.
Change from code to guideline
The explanatory statement says that the proposal to replace the binding Code with a Guideline is intended to reflect the Government’s de-regulatory commitment, and to remove duplication and unnecessary overlap with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code C628:2012 (TCP Code). The explanatory statement also says that it was the view of the working group developing the Guideline that, after duplication and overlap was removed, insufficient content remained to warrant the retention of a standalone Code.
Although the Guideline is shorter than the Code it is intended to replace, it still includes important privacy protections that do not appear to be duplicated elsewhere: in particular, the requirement that suppliers allow customers to opt-out of CND, and the requirement that suppliers provide information to customers about CND.
The Explanatory Statement to the Guideline states that:
’The Guideline will ensure that all suppliers abide by a standard set of rules in relation to the way they provide their customers choices for enabling and blocking CND to those they are calling and meeting service delivery standards in relation to implementing customer choices.
It will enable customers to make privacy related choices without being charged for opting to block or enable CND to the called party.
It will also ensure that suppliers maintain on-going awareness activities in relation to CND, CLI and privacy.’
It is not clear to me how the Guideline can ensure these matters if it is not binding. I am concerned to ensure that there is a clear obligation for organisations covered by the Guideline to comply with the Guideline’s requirements, and for affected individuals or the relevant regulator to take action in the event that the Guideline is not complied with.
One way of achieving this is to keep the Guideline in the form of a Code.
As an alternative, if Communications Alliance remains of the view that the CND Code should be changed to a Guideline, Communications Alliance could commit to incorporate the key obligations from the Code into a different binding instrument (for example, the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code C628:2012) when it is next revised. In my view, the obligations within the CND Code that are most important to retain are the requirements for suppliers to:
- provide customers with the option of opting out of CND, and
- tell customers how to do so.
Maintaining consumer awareness of CND
CND operates on an opt-out basis. A privacy risk of this model is that individuals who are unaware of the operation of CND could unintentionally disclose their telephone number or identity to call recipients. This risk is mitigated by the Code, which includes comprehensive ongoing customer information requirements. These information requirements allow customers to make informed choices about whether to participate in CND.
I acknowledge that community awareness of CND is greater than it was when CND was introduced in Australia in 1997. As such, it may be appropriate to reduce the amount of information that suppliers are required to provide to ensure the regulatory burden imposed by the Code remains reasonable and proportionate.
However, I am concerned that by entirely removing the ongoing obligations to provide information to customers about CND (currently in clause 4.1.1 of the Code), the proposed Guideline removes an important protection.
As such, I recommend that the Guideline be amended to retain the obligation on suppliers to provide information to customers about CND. The quantity of information that suppliers are required to communicate on an ongoing basis could be reduced to reflect increased community awareness of CND, but should at least include:
- a general explanation of what CND is and what it does, and
- information about how to opt out of CND, either on a per-call or permanent basis.
Recognition of telephony services that cannot support opt-out
The 2006 revision to the Code made amendments to recognise challenges presented by VoIP technology. In particular, some VoIP services were identified as being technically unable to block CND. To allow customers to elect to opt-out of CND in these circumstances, clause 3.8 was added to the Code, which required suppliers to notify customers if a service was unable to support blocking CND, and allow customers to leave a service if technological change to the service prevented customers from blocking or enabling CND.
I note that these provisions are omitted from the Guideline. If this is because all VoIP services now in use in Australia are able to support CND, and thus the exclusion is no longer required, I agree that this provision should be removed. However, if there are still VoIP services used in Australia that do not support CND blocking, I recommend that this clause, or an equivalent clause, be retained.
If you have any questions, please contact Mr Annan Boag, Assistant Director, on [contact details redacted].
Australian Privacy Commissioner
30 April 2015
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