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Appearing at ACCAnect 2019 - Delia Rickard - Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Nerida O'Loughlin – Chair of the ACMA and Judi Jones - Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

At ACCAN's national conference, ACCANect 2019, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from experts from across the telco industry, including Delia Rickard - Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Nerida O'Loughlin – Chair of the ACMA and Judi Jones - Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. 

These three organisation protect and enforce telco consumer safeguards in Australia. While they each handle different aspects of telco consumer protection, together they work towards safeguarding Australian telco consumers.

  • Reliability responsibilities
    The ACMA and the TIO deal with the more technical or tangible aspects, such as enforcement of service provider obligations or dealing with faults reported by telecommunications consumers.
  • The TIO is also responsible for dealing with specific issues or complaints of individual consumers.
  • The ACCC has responsibility for the telecommunications-specific access and anti-competitive conduct provisions in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
  • The ACCC is also responsible for general consumer protection under the Australian Consumer Law

 

As Australia’s consumer voice for telecommunications matters, ACCAN works closely with the ACCC, the ACMA and the TIO on a wide range of issues. In anticipation of their ACCANect 2019 sessions, we spoke to these experts to find out more on their views about reliability and performance in telecommunications. Want to hear more from them? Register for ACCANect 2019 today.

Delia Rickard - Deputy Chair of the ACCC

How does the ACCC define reliable communications?

A reliable service is a service that works, performs to the quality promised to the customer at the time of signing up, and where any faults or issues are resolved in a timely fashion.

The ACCC’s focus is on improving service quality and reducing prices through greater competition, and ensuring that consumers are getting the service levels that they are paying for.

It also closely monitors the reliability and performance of telecommunications services.

Why does the ACCC think reliability and performance are important to telco consumers?

Telecommunications services are an essential rather than a discretionary service, and consumers rely on them to stay connected to others, perform everyday activities and access basic services. They expect to pay reasonable prices for services that meet their needs and that work consistently.

Access to reliable mobile services is particularly important toregional consumers to support their business, farming, health, safety and education needs.

Are there any trends that the ACCC has recently identified when it comes to reliability and performance issues? If so, what do these trends mean for consumers?

The NBN rollout is the biggest factor influencing reliability and performance issues for consumers’ home broadband connections. These performance issues prompted the ACCC’s inquiry into NBN wholesale service standards, which is looking at whether changes can be made at the wholesale level to improve customer experiences.

Retailers are doing a better job of advertising the actual speeds consumers get, rather than selling them ‘up to’ a certain speed.

Our recent Monitoring Broadband Australia report, found that most RSPs were achieving average speeds that met or exceeded the typical plan speeds they advertised.

But some consumers continue to experience underperforming services that never achieve close to their maximum advertised plan speed. The ACCC expects that RSPs and NBN Co will work closely together to help consumers achieve the speeds they are paying for.

Nerida O'Loughlin – Chair of the ACMA

How does the ACMA define reliable communications?

Public confidence in communications and media services is one of the ACMA’s top priorities. Consumers should have confidence that their telco can deliver the services that they have promised.

Reliability is about having access to the services you need, that they perform as they should, and that faults and complaints are resolved quickly and effectively.

We see reliability being built around a strong framework so that Australians can maximise the economic and social benefits of communications. It is also essential that Australians have access to communications in emergencies and life-threatening circumstances. The ACMA plays a key role building, monitoring and enforcing this framework.


Why does the ACMA think reliability and performance are important to telco consumers?

Telco services are integral to the work, home and social lives of all Australians. If those services are unreliable or not performing, they can significantly impact consumers and businesses and disconnect them from economic and social activity.

Australians expect that telco services will perform as advertised and if there is an issue, they expect that it will be fixed quickly with minimum fuss. We are paying close attention to the number of unscheduled outages and looking to industry to minimise disruptions to services. We also undertake research to examine consumer’s expectations of and experiences with telecommunications services.

Are there any trends that the ACMA has recently identified when it comes to reliability and performance issues? If so, what do these trends mean for consumers?

The ACMA has a key role in reporting on the performance of industry. Our most recent Communications Report found that today’s anywhere, anytime, data-driven communications environment means that consumers have very high expectations of telco services.
Australian industry and government have invested significantly in communications networks to keep up with current and expected future demand. But, revenues to support such investment have increasingly shifted to online and ‘over-the-top’ providers that do not invest in infrastructure.

This dynamic will continue to challenge telcos in making network investments that are critical to reliability and performance.

Judi Jones - Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

How does the TIO define reliable communication?

A timely question! Part B of the Consumer Safeguards Review will address reliability of services and public consultation and consultation on this closed in January 2019.

From a TIO lens, a reliable service is one that keeps consumers connected. This includes supply of broadband and voice services that support consumers in going about their day to day activities, dependably. And, if for some reason there is a disruption that disconnects consumers for an unreasonable amount of time, an alternative should be provided.

Why does the TIO think reliability and performance are important to telco consumers?

You only need to observe the behaviours of the people around you to understand the ever-increasing reliance on our mobile devices. Most of us are outsourcing our memories, our education and our daily transactions to our smartphones or internet devices. Small businesses are building their products offerings to consumers around this.

Consumers’ access and reliance on access to voice and data is becoming as critical as our reliance on energy and water. Reliability and performance are critically important to consumers.

Are there any trends that the TIO has recently identified when it comes to reliability and performance issues? If so, what do these trends mean for consumers?

In our most recent six-month update published in April 2019, complaints to the TIO about not having a working phone or internet service; delays with connections or changing service providers; and intermittent service or drop outs formed the top complaint issues for the reporting period of July to December 2018.

For consumers, this means that reliability and performance is an issue. If you’ve already contacted your telecommunications provider to address reliability or performance issues and it continues to be an issue, we’re here to help you find a way forward.