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Govt moots TIO changes to deal with avalanche of telco complaints

Govt moots TIO changes to deal with avalanche of telco complaints Featured

The Federal Government has proposed new rules for resolving telecommunications consumer complaints, including setting up an External Dispute Resolution body to deal with complex complaints, that would lead to changes in the setup of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield released a consultation paper on the proposed rules on Thursday.

These aim at ensuring users can have effective handling of complaints and a redress scheme that requires transparency and accountability of providers.

“Consumers are fed up with poor service and inadequate safeguards when their telco fails to address a complaint,” Fifield said.

“Complaints about customer service and billing continue to be the top issues reported to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, and complaints in Australia are far too high.

“For example, the TIO had more than 158,000 complaints last year, compared to just over 2000 complaints to the New Zealand Telecom Dispute Resolution service and around 9000 complaints to the Canadian telecommunications complaints scheme. Australians are being let down by a system which isn’t working."

The announcement today marks the first stage of what is to be a three-part consumer safeguards review led by Andrew Dyer and the Communications Department.

Dyer is a previous chairman of the TIO Council and currently serves as the National Wind Farm Commissioner, among other roles. He has significant experience in customer service, complaint handling and dispute resolution.

The statement said the existing complaints handling procedure was almost fully reliant on industry self-regulation.

"Controls on industry behaviour are largely contained within industry codes, monitored by a regulator required to give industry every opportunity to remedy its own behaviour; and the independent TIO is owned and funded by industry," it said.

Reacting to the announcement, Labor's Acting Shadow Communications Minister Stephen Jones said: “The Turnbull Government is obsessed with who handles and reports on complaints, rather than how you prevent complaints from happening in the first place.”

“In contrast, Labor’s priority is to fix the root causes by addressing technology problems, and to put in place an NBN service guarantee to deliver less downtime for consumers and greater accountability in the industry.”

The consultation paper is here and submissions are due by 3 August.

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

 

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