Issue No 13: 18 May 2021



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Telcos Respond Quickly to Resolve Concerns about Selling Practices

Communications Alliance today welcomed the prompt, cooperative action taken by telecommunications providers, working with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s systemic investigation on ‘Helping telco consumers sign up to the right phone and internet products.’

Commenting on the release of the TIO’s report today, Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton said: “No consumer should ever feel pressured to sign up to something they don’t want, and they should always have access to clear information on what they are considering. There is always a Critical Information Summary available that provides consumers with a clear summary of terms and conditions, and we encourage all consumers to look at that document before making purchasing decisions.”

“As noted in the TIO’s report, there are extensive consumer protections in place, including requirements in an enforceable industry Code about telecommunications selling practices and on providing Critical Information Summaries. The 2019 revision of the Code also added strict requirements for credit checks. While it is always disappointing when errors are made or providers do not comply with their obligations, there are two strong regulators in this space – the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the ACCC – and the TIO is able to both resolve specific consumer complaints and inform the regulators of what they are seeing.

“We were pleased to see that, once made aware of a problem, RSPs took proactive steps to resolve it, even beyond the complaints raised through the TIO. This included contacting all impacted consumers, issuing refunds and changing forward practices.

“This report shows the valuable role the TIO can play in educating industry and consumers. Some of the reported investigations were not about direct wrongdoing on the part of the telco, but instead found ways that telcos and consumers could better communicate,” Mr Stanton concluded.

Communications Alliance did note that, while the TIO has an important role as the independent dispute resolution body, the TIO’s systemic investigations are not done under the same processes as a regulatory investigation, and thus may not have gone through the same legal checks and balances and are not required to be finalised at the time of publication.

Finally, as highlighted by the TIO, it is also important that consumers take the time to look at the terms and conditions information that is provided to them, to think about whether a product or service is the right one for them, and to consider their options. This is true not only for purchasing from telcos where there are extensive consumer protections in place, but also from non-telco retailers who also sell devices but aren’t subject to the same regulatory scrutiny.

Decreasing Rates of Telco Complaints Continue in Latest Complaints in Context Report

Communications Alliance has published its Complaints in Context report for the January – March 2021 quarter, showing a small decrease in complaint rates for the participating providers.

The report details the complaints received by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) per 10,000 Services in Operation (SIO) for participating service providers for each quarter. This index allows comparison of the customer service and complaint handing performance of providers, regardless of their size.

For all participating service providers, there were 6.9 complaints per 10,000 SIOs, a decrease from the 7.0 ratio in the October – December quarter. Individual provider results were mixed, with some falling and others remaining steady or rising. As report participants change each year for the October – December quarter, the overall ratio is not directly comparable to prior years.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said: “The ACMA’s recent publication of data about complaints lodged directly with telcos showed a 40% decrease over a two-year period up to the October – December quarter. While the decrease in the rate of complaints made to the TIO for this this quarter was not nearly as strong, telcos continue to work to improve customer service.”

The industry-driven report is published by Communications Alliance, using complaints data provided by the TIO and SIO data supplied by participating providers. Per the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, participants are updated annually to reflect the top 10 complaint recipients in the most recent TIO Annual Report, in addition to voluntary participants.

Communications Alliance encourages any RSP interested in joining the index to contact them.

Draft Critical Infrastructure Asset Definition Rules

In its submission to the Department of Home Affairs Critical Infrastructure Centre (CIC) consultation, Communications Alliance has urged Government to make use of the powers allowed for under the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020 (Bill) to prescribe that certain specified critical telecommunications and data storage and processing assets are not critical infrastructure assets and to clarify the respective definitions. This submission argues that this is necessary as the definitions for those assets are either too broad to be operationally practical and/or not sufficiently/clearly defined and could be misleading.

The submission also seeks further guidance on the treatment of assets as they may relate to the space sector.

Draft Cost Recovery Implementation Statement (CRIS) for the 2019-20 Proposed Annual Carrier Licence Charge (ACLC)

In its submission to the ACMA’s Annual Carrier Licence Charge consultation, Communications Alliance has called for future consideration of whether costs are being appropriately shared across relevant stakeholders and the inclusion of cost recovery in Regulatory Impact Statements. 

Exploring RLAN use in the 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands

The Communications Alliance Satellite Services Working Group (SSWG) welcomed the opportunity to comment on the ACMA’s Exploring RLAN use in the 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands consultation.

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