Tuesday, 14 December 2021 12:34

Fixing customer service tops NZ telco consumer wishlist

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson

Poor customer service should be the top priority in the NZ Commerce Commission’s work to improve telecommunications retail service quality outcomes for consumers, according to half of the respondents to a recent poll, the Commission says.

The Commission's poll asked for feedback on a range of retail service quality issues that the Commission identified in September as affecting consumers using phone and broadband services.

Common complaints about customer service confirmed in the poll included long wait times, multiple transfers and poor record keeping when calling providers for support. Consumers also identified issues with billing, debt management and affordability practices, switching providers, notice periods to leave and high early termination fees on contracts.

Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said that more than 300 individual consumers provided views and that these were considered alongside submissions from industry and consumer groups to confirm the retail service quality issues for prioritisation.

“This final report locks down the retail service quality issues that need addressing,” he said. “They span all stages of the telecommunications service lifecycle from advertising, marketing and engagement, through to service performance, billing and customer service, to closing accounts and switching providers.

“Our focus will now shift to working with industry to implement solutions that will make a meaningful difference for consumers. We’ll be issuing a workplan for this next phase of our work in the New Year.

“As we progress the work, we will continue to provide individual consumers and consumer groups the opportunity to have their say.”

In addition to the consumer poll, 17 submissions were received from the industry and consumer groups including Christians Against Poverty, Consumer NZ, Federated Farmers NZ, FinCap, Technology Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), and Utilities Disputes.

Gilbertson said the Commission’s work to improve retail service quality outcomes is driven by the new regulatory regime introduced in 2018.

“We are already working with the telecoms industry on a number of issues, such as improving mobile usage information and the way that newer technologies are advertised to consumers coming off copper,” he said.

“If the industry falls short in one or more of these areas then, given their importance to consumers, we are likely to have to make them a priority within our workplan and use our new powers to put a remedy in place.”

The Commission’s work to identify retail service quality issues affecting consumers included one of the largest ever surveys of telecommunications consumers in New Zealand, also published in September.

The Retail Service Quality – Final Baseline Report, which sets the baseline for the Commission’s ongoing work programme, is on the Commission’s website, along with the poll results and the Commission’s response to submissions from industry and consumer groups. The individual submissions are also published on the Commission’s here.

This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 10 December 2021.

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