The Australian telecommunications industry is planning to implement a “unit-pricing” scheme to help consumers easily compare pricing before purchasing mobile phone plans.
The “unit-pricing” plan is among the industry proposals aimed at finalising the new Communications Alliance Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, which has been developed in conjunction with consumer representatives and regulators and will soon be released for public comment.
It is among a raft of improvements to the Code that will strengthen consumer protections, improve the information provided to consumers and take positive action to prevent so-called “bill shock”.
Speaking at the ACCAN Conference in Sydney today, Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said the proposed Code provision would see “unit pricing” for standard national calls, SMS and data usage spelled out in large print advertisements for post-paid mobile phone plans with included-value (so-called ”cap” plans).
“The “unit pricing” will be standardised to help consumers easily compare different offerings and will also be included in a new Summary of Offer document that consumers will receive before they make a purchase, and on service provider web-sites,“ Mr Stanton said.
Also planned are new and tighter deadlines on supplier investigation and resolution of customer complaints, and a stronger system of spend management tools to help consumers avoid bill-shock. This will include consumers receiving notifications at specific usage or expenditure points, so they can better ensure that they don’t incur any additional charges.
“Many service providers in Australia already offer an extensive array of spend management tools, but the planned Code improvements are designed to ensure that tools are available to all consumers,” Mr Stanton said.
He said the revised TCP Code still needed to go through several steps, including further consideration by the relevant steering group and ACMA, then a public comment period, before it could be finalised. Industry will also take account of the imminent report of the ACMA’s Re-Connecting the Customer Inquiry, and is pressing to get the new Code in place as soon as possible.
The many additional improvements in the draft TCP Code include:
1) Stronger controls on advertising content, including headline representations, and the use of terms such as“free”,
2) Ceasing use of the term “cap” for new mobile offers post Code-registration (unless the plan includes a “hard cap” that cannot be exceeded
3) A requirement to highlight that the “cap” amount can be exceeded when advertising existing ”cap” plans
4) Better product disclosure: An obligation to give customers a Summary of Offer prior to sale of post-paid services. The Summary will list all critical details about the product, including:
- “Unit-pricing” points, plus any other key prices pertaining to the product;
- inclusions, exclusions, limitations, important conditions etc.
- contract length and exit/termination fees
- information about credit expiry/roll-over, and spend management tools.
5) Strengthened provisions re international roaming & customers with different needs
6) Spend management tools: Service providers will be required to provide spend management tools, to inform customers about them, and about any approximate delay in their unbilled usage information, as well as providing two domestic data usage or expenditure notifications – one when 100% of the data quota is reached and an earlier notification to enable consumers to monitor their progress against the quota.
7) Communications Compliance: A new independent body, with consumer representation will be established to monitor service providers’ compliance with the Code, work with providers on any weaknesses and, where necessary, refer problems to the ACMA for potential enforcement action.
8) A set of industry performance metrics will be created and providers will report against these to Communications Compliance.
9) Complaint handling: New and tighter deadlines will be created to require complaints to be finalised within 15 working days, and any resulting actions to be completed within 10 working days. Complaints will be acknowledged within a maximum of two working days, at which point customers will also receive a unique identifier or reference number to make it easier if they need to further contact their supplier.
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.
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