INDUSTRY CODE TO ASSIST HELPLINES AND VICTIMS OF LIFE THREATENING AND UNWELCOME COMMUNICATIONS

Sydney, 1 March 2017 – A revised industry Code of Practice that provides greater protection for Australian consumers against threatening and unwelcome communications, came into force today after being registered by the telecommunications regulator.

The Handling of Life Threatening and Unwelcome Communications Code, replaces the previously published 2010 version of the Code. The new Code puts in place a standard procedure for the cooperative handling by suppliers and the National Relay Service Provider (NRSP) of communications which traverse the network(s) of one or more suppliers and are connected with life-threatening communications or a pattern or specified number of unwelcome communications.

The revised Code, registered today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), was developed by Communications Alliance and its members, in close collaboration with consumer representatives and Lifeline Australia, which represented the interests of Australian Helpline groups.

The Code, for the first time, incorporates rules and procedures to aid in the management and investigation by suppliers, of unwelcome communications received by Helplines.

Thousands of calls made each year to Helplines, often handled by volunteers, are identified as being 'unwelcome' calls, including nuisance calls and those that are harassing, menacing or threatening.
The new rules and procedures will assist in identifying the worst of these offenders and free up valuable resources to ensure Helplines like Lifeline Australia can take more calls from people experiencing challenges such as relationship breakdown, employment issues, mental illness and profound loneliness. The Code allows service providers to suspend services to repeat offenders who ignore a warning to stop making unwanted calls.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, acknowledged the time and effort given by all members of the working committee.

“Lifeline and other Helpline operators offer a vital service to many thousands of Australians in distress and in vulnerable situations. These organisations often operate on limited resources and with the help of generous volunteers.

“It is crucial that their operations – which can mean the difference between life and death, despair and hope -  are not hampered by irresponsible or malicious individuals,” Mr Stanton said.

Lifeline Australia CEO Pete Shmigel welcomed the new version of the Code, saying the national charity’s highest priority was supporting its volunteer workforce of more than 4,000 Crisis Supporters.

“Our highly skilled and compassionate volunteers are on the frontline of Australia’s suicide emergency,’ Mr Shmigel said. ‘The new Code will allow them to do more of what they do best—providing caring and non-judgemental support to Australians in crisis and sparing countless individuals, families and whole communities the profound heartache of losing someone to suicide.”

Two industry Guidance Notes were developed in parallel with the revised Code. A Consumer Process Guidance Note to assist consumers and a Helpline Threshold Guidance for Helplines and Industry.

ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS ALLIANCE
Communications Alliance is the primary telecommunications industry body  in Australia. Its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of the  communications industry, including carriers, carriage and internet  service providers, content providers, search engines, equipment vendors, IT companies, consultants and business groups.

Its vision is to  provide a unified voice for the telecommunications industry and to lead  it into the next generation of converging networks, technologies and  services. The prime mission of Communications Alliance is to promote the growth of the Australian communications industry and the protection of  consumer interests by fostering the highest standards of business ethics and behaviour through industry self-governance. For more details about  Communications Alliance, see www.commsalliance.com.au.

Media information contact:
Sefiani Communications
Kurt Graham kgraham@sefiani.com.au
0431 478 558