Policy Objectives
Consumer Protection Rules
Content Regulation

Policy Objectives

In previous updates licensing and competition laws applicable to licensees under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 were discussed (see Licensing Communications in the Age of Convergence, Communications Authority Considers Competition Issue and Communications Authority Regulates Competition). The protection of consumer interests is also entrenched in the national policy objectives, which are, among others:

  • to promote information-based services that will enhance the quality of work and life;

  • to promote consumer confidence in the delivery of such services; and

  • to ensure information security and network reliability.

The emphasis on consumer interests is evident in the introduction of competition rules for licensees. First, although tariffs will be deregulated and will be governed by market forces and competition rules, the minister of communication will retain the authority to set rates if he/she has good cause or determines that it is in the public's interest.

Second, the act promotes the installation of network facilities and the provision of network services in under-served areas. Also, network service providers can be required to provide specific services such as emergency services, directory assistance, operator assistance, and services for disabled consumers.

Finally, with respect to security issues, the act provides that the unlawful interception, disclosure or use of communications are offences of the act. Thus, the privacy rights of the public are addressed.

Consumer Protection Rules

The act requires all network and applications service providers to deal reasonably with consumers and adequately address consumer complaints. Contravention of these requirements is a criminal offence.

The act encourages self-regulation. It calls on the telecommunications and multimedia industry to create a Consumer Protection Forum with responsibility to prepare a voluntary industry code of conduct (ie, a Consumer Code). However, compliance with the Consumer Code will not be truly voluntary; Compliance will be mandatory in order to obtain a licence. The Consumer Code, which is subject to the approval of the Communications Commission, shall include model procedures for:

  • satisfying consumer requirements;

  • handling customer complaints and disputes, including the establishment of an inexpensive arbitration tribunal and procedures for compensating customers when the Consumer Code is breached; and

  • protecting consumer information.

The Consumer Code may also address:

  • the provision of information to customers regarding services, rates and performance;

  • the provision of services and the repair of faults;

  • the advertisement and representation of services;

  • billing, collection and credit practices; and

  • any other matter of concern to consumers.

If a licensee breaches the Consumer Code, the act provides that the consumer may raise his/her claim with the Communications Commission. To this end, the commission may establish procedures for making, receiving and handling consumer complaints regarding the conduct of licensees.

It is unclear whether the commission is empowered to make an award of damages to the consumer. This will have to be clarified in future.

Content Regulation

The act provides that no content applications service provider, or other person using a content applications service, shall provide content that is indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person. Contravention of this provision is a criminal offence. There is considerable debate on whether the unintentional provision of offensive content attracts liability. The concept of the 'innocent carrier', analogous in print media to the owner of a bookshop or the newspaper delivery boy, has yet to be tested in Malaysia.

The act encourages industry self-regulation of content by calling for an industry forum to be established to prepare a Content Code. Unlike the Consumer Code, compliance with the Content Code is truly voluntary. However, industry members are likely to comply with the code as compliance may be a defence to any action for violation of the content provisions of the 1998 act.

The Content Code shall include model procedures for dealing with offensive or indecent content. Other matters that may be included are:

  • restrictions on the provision of unsuitable content;

  • methods for classifying content;

  • procedures for handling public complaints and for reporting complaints to the Communications Commission;

  • methods for educating the public about the regulation of content; and

  • other matters of concern to the community.

As of March 2000, neither the Consumer Code nor the Content Code had yet been published.

For further information on this topic please contact Julian Ding at Zaid Ibrahim & Co by telephone (+603 257 9999) or by fax (+603 254 4888) or by email ([email protected]).

The materials contained on this web site are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.