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Issue No 27: 18 October 2017


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Communications Alliance Comment on TIO Annual Report 2016/17

The complaint statistics contained in the 2016/17 TIO Annual Report are disappointing and confirm that industry efforts to improve the customer experience in the telecommunications sector need to be intensified.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said: “the industry is dealing with significant disruption that has been difficult for many customers and has generated worrying increases in complaint levels during the past 12 months (following four years of continuous reduction in complaints).

Industry – including service providers and nbn – are working intensely on a range of customer, service and process initiatives to improve the overall consumer experience.

We note that the latest Complaints in Context results, released yesterday do point to reduction in complaints during the period July to September 2017 – i.e. the three months after the TIO’s reporting period."

(Complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman as a proportion of services in operation (SIO) for report participants fell to 8.3 complaints per 10,000 services for the period July to September 2017.

This compares to a ratio of 9.0 complaints per 10,000 SIO in the previous quarter and is the lowest ratio since October to December 2016.)

“The Complaints in Context results appear to indicate that industry efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

Industry acknowledges there is still much work to do, to turn these encouraging signs into a sustained positive trend and is redoubling its effort to achieve that outcome.”

Service providers and nbn are working individually and cooperatively on a swathe of initiatives in areas including:
- better training and quality assurance for the connection of homes and businesses to the nbn
- improved fault detection;
- better contractor and appointment coordination; and
- better tools for consumers to track the status of orders

The TIO report underlines that the rapidly accelerating roll-out of the nbn – with more than 40,000 premises being connected each week - has contributed to the increase in the total number of complaints received by industry. Internet and landline faults (affecting less than 1% [ie 0.67% or 16,221/2,443,133] of the total number of activated premises on the nbn) are the main cause for complaints about services delivered over the national broadband network, followed by delays to connections (affecting 0.83% [11,224/(553,930+790,569)] of new premises activated during the reporting period).

The TIO Report points to the fact that a range of factors are, however, at play in driving the increase in complaint numbers – including significant increases in complaints about customer service (up 48.7%) and billing and payments (up 41.9%) – meaning that industry needs to re-examine more broadly its customer service and complaint handling performance.

Communications Alliance, consumer representatives and other stakeholders are currently revising the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code.

We will use the TIO data to help drive further improvements to the Code – which is enforceable – that will translate into improved industry performance.


Reduction in Telecommunications Complaints In Context

Complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman as a proportion of services in operation (SIO) for report participants fell to 8.3 complaints per 10,000 services for the period July to September 2017.

This compares to a ratio of 9.0 complaints per 10,000 SIO in the previous quarter and is the lowest ratio since October to December 2016.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said: “the industry is dealing with significant disruption that has been difficult for some customers and has generated worrying increases in complaint levels during the past 12 months (following four years of continuous reduction in complaints).”

“We expect this reality to be reflected in the results of the TIO Annual Report when it is released later this week.

“Industry – including service providers and nbn – are working intensely on a range of customer, service and process initiatives to improve the overall consumer experience.

“It is pleasing that these latest Complaints in Context results appear to indicate that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit.”

“Industry acknowledges there is still much work to do, to turn these encouraging signs into a sustained positive trend and is redoubling its effort to achieve that outcome.”

Complaints in Context is a quarterly report published by Communications Alliance with complaints data provided by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. The report for July to September 2017 can be found on the Communications Alliance website. The report was previously published jointly by Communications Alliance and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.


New Industry Guidance to Improve Credit Management In Telecommunications

New guidance released today underlines industry’s commitment to deliver fair credit management outcomes for all Australian telecommunications consumers.

The telecommunications industry reviewed sales, credit assessment and management practices in light of the recent recommendations of the Rank the Telco report by the Financial & Consumer Rights Council, Victoria.

The Industry Guidance Note on Sales Practices and Credit and Debt Management published today evidences the commitment to delivering fair outcomes and identifies a number of best practices currently in place.

The Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code is the Industry code of conduct that sets out what Suppliers must do in relation to sales, billing, and credit and debt management, amongst other topics. All Carriage Service Providers (CSPs) who supply Telecommunications Products to Customers in Australia are required to observe and comply with the Code, which is registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The TCP Code sets out obligations which all suppliers are required to comply with. Considering the extreme variance in sizes, services provided, and customers of telecommunications service providers in Australia, the operationalisation of these obligations can vary.

The additional guidance is designed to illustrate a range of good practices for CSPs to consider and apply as appropriate.

Industry has also recently worked with Financial Counsellors Australia and the TIO to update the guide for CSPs supporting customers dealing with financial hardship - Assisting and responding to customers in financial hardship Principles and practices – guide for telecommunications providers1.  

While the industry performs hundreds of thousands credit applications each month for new customers, with the vast majority processed quickly and efficiently to allow customers to purchase and enjoy their services and stay connected, there are many other factors that can later affect the customers’ ability to fulfil their overall financial commitments.

In these cases, consumers may wish to access their provider’s financial hardship team to discuss appropriate options. Industry is working with Financial Counsellors Australia to create a contact list of hardship teams to facilitate this access.

Industry is committed to ongoing improvement in how it serves customers. Recently, Communications Alliance varied the TCP Code to reference assistance for victims of domestic or family, and is working to develop further guidance on this topic.

Industry has also been working to improve cross industry collaboration on these topics, including attendance at the Vulnerability Roundtable, Thriving Communities Partnership Workshops and Family Violence Workshops with Consumer Affairs, and looks forward to continuing this work.

The latest TIO complaints data, related to credit management, show a recent positive trend with respect to credit management complaints:

TIO REPORT
Total complaints
Credit management complaint
2015/16 Annual report2
112,518
14.1%
Six Monthly Update July to December 20163
65,970
10.5%
Industry will continue to work to improve customer experience in this and all areas.

The Industry Guidance Note can be found here.


1. http://www.tio.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/169776/TIO_FinancialHardship-Guidelines-2nd-edition-28-April-2017.pdf
2. http://annualreport2016.tio.com.au/#Issues_in_new_complaints  
3. https://www.tio.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/239244/TIO-Six-Monthly-Update-f2.pdf p 6 


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TelSoc Forum 2017 – Exploring the Urgency for Innovation, Regulatory Changes and Consumer Expectations

TelSocTelSoc will hold its national forum on 22-23 November 2017 in Melbourne. The anticipated Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms will have a significant impact on the industry. TelSoc Forum 2017 (#TelSoc17) will bring together telecommunications and security experts to better understand what the reforms will mean, as well as exploring emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, software-defined networking and 5G networks.

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