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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:

  • Part A – Redress and Complaints Handling - completed in 2018.
  • Part B – Reliability of Services - launched in November 2018 with submissions closing 18 January 2019.
  • Part C – Choice and Fairness - expected in the first half of 2019.

 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.

 

Download:  docxConsumer Safeguards Review - Part A - Redress and Complaints862.36 KB
Download:  pdfConsumer Safeguards Review - Part A - Redress and Complaints765.25 KB

 Part B: Reliability of Services

The second consultation examined existing regulatory arrangements around the reliability of telecommunications services and put forward proposals for change. Reliability relates to connection and repair timeframes, as well as how often network outages occur and how long they last. The current arrangements are focused on fixed-line voice services (eg home phones) provided by Telstra.

Since the current arrangements were developed, the use of broadband has become widespread. This change warrants regulation similar to that provided of fixed line voice services. With the rollout of the NBN, Telstra should no longer be the only provider of regulated services - all providers of voice and broadband services should be subject to regulations to protect consumers.

We have made 14 recommendations to be implemented in 2019 including:

  • Telecommunications are essential services and regulations are required to obligate providers to connect or repair services within specified timeframes.
  • There should be automatic compensation for consumers when a provider does not connect or repair a service within the specified timeframe or fails to turn up to a scheduled appointment.
  • Consumers with a medically diagnosed life-threatening condition have access to faster connection and repair timeframes as well as backup services in order to maintain their connections to emergency services
  • Penalties apply to providers for consistent breaches
  • Providers report reliability performance (such as numbers of faults) to the ACMA for regular reporting.

 

Download: docxConsumer Safeguards Review - Part B - Reliability of Services865.81 KB

Download: pdfConsumer Safeguards Review - Part B - Reliability of Services813.5 KB

Download: docxACCAN policy position on a customer service and reliability standard37.54 KB

Download: pdfACCAN policy position on a customer service and reliability standard768.66 KB