The telecommunications industry today outlined a comprehensive program of reforms to customer service and complaint handling practices designed to dramatically improve the service experience of Australian communications consumers.
The wide-ranging overhaul of industry practices, through the advent of a revised and strengthened Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, is detailed in industry’s response to the ACMA’s draft report on its Reconnecting the Customer (RTC) inquiry.
The new TCP Code, developed by industry and consumer representatives with extensive input from the Federal Government and industry regulators, will soon be released for public comment.
The new Code will include provisions to meet the specific objectives identified by the ACMA in its draft report, namely improved advertising practices and product disclosure, improved transparency of customer service performance, expenditure management tools and enhanced internal complaint handling practices.
The industry is confident the proposed improvements in the revised TCP Code will deliver significant consumer benefits through:
- Improved advertising practices across the whole telecommunications industry to ensure advertising is fair and not misleading - including not using the term ‘cap’ for any new offer unless it is a hard cap;
- Enhanced pre-sale disclosure via simple, plain language information and standardised pricing details to enable better informed purchasing decisions by consumers and small businesses;
- Stronger rules on providing and communicating usage/expenditure management tools to reduce the likelihood of ‘bill shock’, especially regarding excess data usage for included value plans;
- Strengthened provisions regarding suppliers communicating information on financial hardship policies to consumers;
- Improvements to complaint handling processes and the introduction of specified deadlines within which service providers must respond to customers and resolve complaints; and
- Tighter compliance and enforcement measures, including a requirement for all suppliers to prepare a compliance plan and submit a performance report against the TCP Code rules, and requirements for large suppliers to be assessed by an independent assessor.
Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said the industry’s planned initiatives to meet the ACMA’s consumer objectives in key areas such as spend management tools and advertising/pricing have been developed to ensure genuine consumer benefit and with close regard to practicality of implementation across the industry, noting that the sector encompasses more than 1000 service providers of greatly differing size and system capability – all of which will be subject to compliance with the revised TCP Code.
Mr Stanton said further detailed discussions were planned with the ACMA in light of the industry’s submission and before the TCP Code was released for public comment.
He emphasised the importance of the stronger approach taken in the new Code to ensure industry-wide compliance with its provisions.
“The biggest single weakness in the existing TCP Code is the absence of an effective framework to ensure consistent compliance performance across the breadth of the industry, even though many service providers have striven to ensure they do meet the Code provisions.
“This lack of consistency has undoubtedly contributed to some of the difficulties in customer service and complaint handling that led to the RTC inquiry being established.
“We are very confident that the new Code, with its strengthened and improved rules across all key areas of industry activity, combined with widespread compliance, will contribute to a material improvement in the service experience of telecommunications consumers – a development that will also benefit the industry itself,” Mr Stanton commented.
ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS ALLIANCE
Communications Alliance is the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia. Its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of the communications industry, including carriers, carriage and internet service providers, content providers, search engines, equipment vendors, IT companies, consultants and business groups.
Its vision is to provide a unified voice for the telecommunications industry and to lead it into the next generation of converging networks, technologies and services. The prime mission of Communications Alliance is to promote the growth of the Australian communications industry and the protection of consumer interests by fostering the highest standards of business ethics and behaviour through industry self-governance.
For more details about Communications Alliance, see www.commsalliance.com.au.