The Australian Communications and Media Authority has directed (Gazel Telecomo | Utel Networks) two telcos to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (the TCP Code) and formally warned a third following three ACMA investigations into unauthorised customer transfers.
The ACMA found that Gazal Telecom Australia, Telcomo and UTel Networks each contravened provisions of the TCP Code about the promotion of customer transfers and obtaining informed consent to the transfers of fixed line services.
A direction was given to UTel Networks to comply with the entire TCP Code. A direction was also given to Gazal Telecom Australia to comply with Chapters 4 & 7 of the code, which relate to sales practices and changing suppliers.
Telcomo changed its transfer application and contract processes to address the issues prior to the release of the ACMA’s preliminary investigation findings. As a consequence, it was only issued with a formal warning.
‘Telecommunications customers have the right to choose their own telephone company and to change companies when it suits them, subject to existing contracts,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.
‘When customers are transferred without giving proper authority, this choice is not only taken away from them but can cause considerable inconvenience and sometimes excess costs.
‘As poor customer transfer practices remain a significant source of complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), the ACMA has begun a multi-provider audit of code compliance with transfer provisions,’ Mr Chapman added. ‘If our audit finds that a provider is not complying, we will not hesitate to take further action.’
Failure to comply with the direction may result in the ACMA taking Federal Court action seeking the imposition of a pecuniary penalty or the ACMA issuing an infringement notice for $10,200 per contravention.
More information on unauthorised customer transfers and how to avoid them is available on the ACMA website.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Media release 4/2014 - 15 January
The three investigations followed referrals to the ACMA from the TIO due to a high number of consumer complaints concerning the transfer practices of Gazal Telecom Australia, Telcomo and UTel Networks.
The rules and procedures relating to transfers are principally contained in Chapter 7 of the TCP Code. Chapter 4 contains rules about the provision of information, selling practices and dealing with consumers with different needs. Transfers between providers should only take place after authorisation has occurred and with the customer’s informed consent. It also specifies information that a provider must provide to customers about the transfer process before it takes place.
Where an investigation finds contraventions of the TCP Code, the ACMA can:
- agree with the provider on steps the provider will take to remedy its breach or improve compliance;
- formally warn the provider; or
- direct the provider to comply with the code or formally warn it in relation to a contravention of the code.
Customer transfer audit
Through this audit, the ACMA hopes to gain a broader view of provider compliance with the transfer provisions of the TCP Code.
As part of the audit the ACMA may start other formal investigations and/or take enforcement action.
Compliance action to date
Since the code was registered in September 2012, the ACMA has increased its scrutiny of compliance, particularly where contraventions of the code are suspected.
To date it has issued 107 formal warnings and given 10 directions to comply.