Home Telecoms & NBN After two years, govt announces telco industry safeguards review
After two years, govt announces telco industry safeguards review Featured

The Coalition Government has finally honoured a two-year-old promise, with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield announcing on Tuesday that it would carry out a Consumer Safeguards Review in the telecommunications sector.

Back in February 2016, the government acknowledged that adjustments needed to be made to existing consumer safeguards in order to stay up-to-date with changes to existing technologies and also to meet consumer expectations.

That reaction came in response to the 2015 Regional Telecommunications Review report which made 12 key recommendations to improve telecommunications access in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Later in 2016, the government proposed that the safeguards review run in parallel with a Production Commission inquiry into the Universal Services Obligation; the latter ran from June 2016 to June 2017 but the former never took off.

The Labor Party seized on the announcement, with shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland saying: "The consistent lack of action, and the announcement of a review first flagged two years ago, shows the Turnbull Government only cares about one thing – the NBN spin cycle.

"This comes on the back of the government sitting on the ACCC’s proposal to set up a speed monitoring program for 14 months. Mitch Fifield said today (Tuesday), 'the existing model for complaints handling and redress is not working'. What the minister meant to say was that the Turnbull Government has not been working.

"Consumers deserve a government with an authentic and proactive commitment to their needs — not one who always places them second and third."

Fifield said the review would be undertaken in three parts:

  • Ensuring that consumers have access to an effective complaints handling and redress scheme that provides transparency and holds telcos accountable for their performance.
  • Ensuring consumers have reliable telecommunications services including reasonable timeframes for connections, fault repairs and appointments; as well as potential compensation or penalties against providers.
  • Ensuring consumers are able to make informed choices and are treated fairly by their provider in areas such as customer service, contracts, billing, credit and debt management, and switching providers.

Telco industry lobby group, the Communications Alliance, welcomed Fifield's announcement, with its director, Program Management, Christiane Gillespie-Jones, saying: “The review is overdue, and industry is keen to engage closely with relevant stakeholders on all parts of the review to produce an efficient and fit-for-purpose framework for consumer safeguards – including through the use of updated industry codes.

“Of course, we are not satisfied with the high numbers of complaints that we are currently seeing, and industry recognises that more needs to be done to improve the overall customer experience.

“We also have to take into account the current once-in-a-generation transformation of communications delivery platforms, which bring transitional disruption along with long-term benefits to telecommunications users.

“Therefore, we need to ensure that any policy settings adopted now are effective in the long term while not creating unnecessary regulatory burden and costs for consumers after the rollout of the NBN has been completed.”

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the sitecame into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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