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The Federal Government is reviewing consumer protections in telecommunications. The aim is to ascertain whether existing arrangements will be fit for purpose in an environment where NBN is the underlying infrastructure provider, and consumer use of services has changed considerably since the existing framework was developed. The review is divided into three parts – Redress and Complaints Handling; Reliability; and Choice and Fairness. The Department of Communications and the Arts will conduct and complete the review in 2018.

Part A: Redress and Complaints Handling

The first consultation examined existing regulatory and institutional arrangements to support internal and external dispute resolutions, identified a number of problems with how these apply in practice, and put forward proposals for change.

In our submission, ACCAN argues that better regulation in telecommunications is needed to safeguard the interests of consumers. This is because the market is failing to deliver services in the most efficient way for all due to information asymmetry between consumers and suppliers, limited competition due to market concentration, and consumer losses incurred from the time and effort involved in dispute resolution. We argue that well recognised industry based dispute resolution principles must be central in the review, that the TIO is well established and widely recognised and should be not be replaced with an alternative EDR body.

We have made eleven recommendations including:

  • The adoption of a ‘no wrong doors’ approach to dispute resolution, and avoidance of measures that limit the ability of consumers to seek external redress;
  • The ACMA closely monitor industry compliance with the new Complaints Handling Standard;
  • The TIO publish quarterly complaints data, and provide more detailed reporting;
  • The TIO continue to publish its own data, and the ACMA publish data on complaints received by the industry collected under the new Record Keeping Rules.

 

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