The warnings follow an Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation which found that ATS Telecoms Pty Ltd, Bottle Communications Pty Ltd, Dataphone Pty Ltd and Essential Online Pty Ltd had contravened the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 by failing to join the scheme.
The ACMA issued formal warnings on Friday to the telcos, commenting that the scheme is Australia’s independent dispute resolution service for consumers and small businesses who have an unresolved complaint about their phone or internet service.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said consumer protections are undermined by telcos if they fail to join the TIO Scheme, as the TIO is unable to handle complaints about telcos that are not members.
“It’s unacceptable that these companies were not members, and that they ignored multiple requests from the TIO to join,” O’Loughlin warned.
“While all four companies have since become members of the scheme, it is disappointing that the ACMA had to get involved before they took their obligations seriously.
“By failing to sign up, these companies were denying their customers access to the important protections offered by the scheme.
“The ability to have complaints heard and resolved by an organisation that is independent of the telcos is a fundamental consumer protection,” O’Loughlin concluded.
The statement by ACMA notes that in the 2018–19 financial year, the TIO received more than 130,000 complaints, with 90% of these resolved in the first instance.
“The ACMA encourages people who are thinking of switching providers to check the provider is a member of the TIO Scheme. This way, consumers can access the services provided by the TIO, if needed,” the ACMA said.
The ACMA and the TIO have recently refreshed their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the MoU providing “a clear framework for the referral of compliance and systemic issues in complaints to benefit of both agencies”.