Wednesday, 22 August 2018 13:25

ACMA lays down the law on telco compliance with new rules Featured

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued new rules providing regulatory safeguards for consumers moving to services delivered over the NBN – cautioning telcos to take immediate steps to embed the rules in their business practices.

In its compliance and enforcement statement of approach published on Wednesday, the ACMA’s new rules require telcos to help consumers get the information they need to make informed choices, have service options if issues arise, and address consumer complaints effectively and in a timely manner.

A statement issued on Wednesday by ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin says that "the time-critical nature of the NBN rollout means that early and consistent industry compliance with these new rules is essential”.

"The ACMA is putting telcos on notice that they need to fully understand the new rules and take immediate steps to embed them in their business practices. As described in our statement of approach, the ACMA has already commenced a targeted program of monitoring, audits and investigations to ensure that industry is complying with the new rules."

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Judi Jones, has come out in support of the new rules, saying they give clear guidance to telcos about its expectations under the new rules, and provide a strong framework to support dispute resolution.

“Residential consumers and small businesses want to migration from their old phone or Internet service to a service delivered over the National Broadband Network to go well,” Jones said.

“Residential consumers or small businesses should first aim to resolve their complaint with their phone or Internet provider. If the complaint remains unresolved, the residential consumer or small business should contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman at www.tio.com.au or call 1800 062 058.”

The new rules will be directly enforceable by the ACMA and, where breaches are found, allow the ACMA to commence court proceedings seeking remedies such as injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10 million.

The ACMA also released today, the detailed findings of the research report — NBN consumer experience: Households and businesses – the end-to-end journey which looks at the experiences of households and small and medium-sized businesses moving to and using services delivered over the NBN.

Research conducted from November 2017 to February 2018 asked consumers about their experience of moving to and using services in the previous 12 months.

The research showed that although most households and businesses had a positive experience, three in 10 households (31%) and four in 10 businesses (42%) had made at least one complaint to their telco.

“The research provides ‘point-in-time’ insights that informed the ACMA’s new telco rules put in place over the last six months,” O’Loughlin said.

The research report follows the publication of top-line findings for residential households in March 2018.

The Labor Party says the ACMA report shows how the NBN had become “a nightmare” for small business, and the latest results on the performance of the network are a “clear indictment of a second-rate NBN that has been botched by this divided government”.

A joint statement issued by the Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Minister for small business,  Chris Bowen, and Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, points to the ACMA report revealing that 40% of small and medium businesses had NBN downtime – and with nearly one in seven being left without internet or phone for over a month.

According to the two Shadow Ministers, the competitiveness of small business will continue to suffer under “non-existent leadership which has been seen under Mitch Fifield and the Liberals”.

“While the Liberals have been fighting amongst themselves, Labor has been focused on consumers.

“If elected, a Shorten Labor Government has announced it will establish an NBN Service Guarantee to safeguard small businesses from excessive downtime that result from faults and delays.

“Labor’s policy will establish the right structural incentives to ensure NBNCo and retail providers are focused on delivering a better experience.”

And in a final swipe at the Government, Bowen and Rowland said “what is clear is that this dysfunctional government must get its house in order and start putting policies in place which are focused on consumers and not themselves”.

 


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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