Wednesday, 11 March 2020 10:13

Protections code proposed for NZ consumers relying on home phones for emergency services calls


New Zealand’s telecommunications and competition regulator The Commerce Commission is seeking feedback on a code to protect consumers who are at particular risk of needing to contact emergency services and only have access to a home phone to make the contact.

The Commission says the 111 contact code has been drafted to support home phone customers who may be unable to call 111 in a power cut, due to New Zealand’s transition to new home phone networks like fibre and fixed wireless.

“These new networks need a power supply in the home to work. This means they may not work in a power cut,” cautions the Commission.

Under changes to the Telecommunications Act, the Commission is required to design a 111 contact code that telecommunications companies must follow.

“Under our draft rules it will be the responsibility of a qualifying customer’s telecommunications provider to supply them with an alternative way to contact 111 at no cost to the customer,” Telecommunications Commissioner Dr Stephen Gale said.

“It’s proposed that the customer applies to their provider if they are at particular risk of needing to call 111, such as if they have a medical condition. If the consumer qualifies, their provider will work with them to determine the right product for their particular needs.

“We have included protections to ensure providers cannot deny or stop supplying home phone services to customers because they are or will be covered by the Code. Customers will also have the ability to complain to the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Service or directly to the Commerce Commission if their provider does not comply with the Code.”

On a broader note, the Commission is also proposing that telecommunications providers tell all of their customers who are moving to, or are already on, new home phone networks that:

• their home phone may not work in a power cut
• how to protect themselves
• where to go for further support.

“We encourage feedback, especially from consumer advocacy groups on the criteria and application process. We are also interested in feedback on what solutions telecommunications providers could use to supply their qualifying customers. We will use this feedback to shape the Code so the final version works for everyone who needs it,” Dr Gale said.

Submissions can be made via the Commission's website by 23 April 2020, with the final Code expected to be finalised and published in mid-2020.

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