Home Telecoms & NBN Telcos push for stronger consumer protections in Industry Code

Australia’s telecommunications industry is pushing for stricter rules around credit assessment and selling practices to provide greater protection for Australian communications consumers.

The importance of the new measures has been highlighted by Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton following the release of a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) looking at industry sales practices and consumer debt.

The upgraded safeguards are contained in a revised and strengthened version of the enforceable Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Industry Code, recently submitted to the industry regulator, the ACMA, for registration.

The TIO has participated in the Code revision process, and the revised TCP Code addresses a number of the issues where the TIO has recommended additional industry action, and requiring, for example:

  • Stronger rules around responsible selling practices, including that suppliers must ensure — including via disciplinary sanctions — that sales representatives promote and sell products in a fair, transparent and accurate manner;
  • Tighter control on credit provision, including spending thresholds, beyond which suppliers must conduct a thorough credit assessment (credit assessment issues accounted for only 0.1% of all complaints received by the TIO during 2017-18);
  • Upgraded arrangements to assist consumers in financial hardship; and
  • Greater transparency around the relative customer service performance of suppliers.

Stanton welcomed the feedback provided by the TIO, which he said had worked constructively with a number of providers to address individual consumer circumstances.

“Active engagement by the Ombudsman and responsive action by suppliers are hallmarks of an effective co-regulatory system, which is bearing positive results in the telecommunications sector.”

According to the Communications Alliance, the rate of consumer complaints to the TIO, for example, fell further in the most recent quarter – generating the best results seen since 2015.

Complaints to the TIO as a proportion of services in operation for service providers who participate in the Communications Alliance Complaints-in-Context report decreased to 6.0 complaints per 10,000 services for the period October-December 2018.

This was now the fourth consecutive quarter in which the ratio has decreased – which CA says indicates that focussed efforts by service providers has improved service delivery and the overall customer experience. It is the best ratio since October – December 2015.

Overall complaints to the TIO have also fallen steadily since February 2018, and the TIO annual report showed that complaints dropped by 17.8% in the final quarter of 2017/18.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year 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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