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Government launches telecommunications Consumer Safeguards Review

By Sara Barker, Wed 18 Apr 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Australian Government will be looking closely at the telecommunications sector and its ability to provide proper safeguards for consumers, as part of a new review.

Current consumer safeguards have been in place since Telstra owned and operated the national fixed-line telecommunications network, however Minister for Communications Senator Mitch Fifield says now telco providers need to up their game.

The review will be conducted in three separate areas: Complaints processes, service reliability, and fairness of services.

1. Ensuring that consumers have access to an effective complaints handling and redress scheme that provides transparency and holds telecommunications providers accountable for their performance.

2. Ensuring consumers have reliable telecommunications services including reasonable timeframes for connections, fault repairs and appointments; as well as potential compensation or penalties against providers.

3. Ensuring consumers are able to make informed choices and are treated fairly by their provider in areas such as customer service, contracts, billing, credit and debt management, and switching providers.

“The TIO’s six-monthly update report… shows that the existing model for complaints handling and redress is not working. Customers are continuing to experience poor service, and are unable to get their service provider to satisfactorily resolve issues,” comments Fifield.

“The fact that complaints to the TIO are still high across all types of fixed line and mobile services clearly shows that telcos need to lift their game. I have already directed the ACMA to put in place rules to support a better consumer experience during the NBN transition, including a complaints handling standard. It is now time to look at the effectiveness of consumer protections across the board.”

Existing safeguards include:

  • The Universal Service Obligation (not in scope of this review)
  • The Customer Service Guarantee, which sets out connection and fault repair timeframes as well as compensation arrangements
  • The Network Reliability Framework, which requires Telstra to address faults on its network on a regional basis and report on performance
  • Priority Assistance, for anyone who depends on their phone because of a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition
  • Voice-only migration to the NBN
  • Monitoring and reporting by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)

The Department of Communications and the Arts will be opening the first stage of the review up to public and industry consultation, with the release of a discussion paper on redress and complaints handling.

Recommendations about all three areas of the consumer safeguards will be presented to the government by the end of 2018.

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