SoleNet (now Comms Service Ops') repeated non-compliance with TCP Code | ACMA

SoleNet (now Comms Service Ops') repeated non-compliance with TCP Code

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that Comms Service Ops Pty Ltd breached the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code 2012 (the TCP Code) on multiple occasions between 14 April and 5 May 2015.

At the time of the breaches the company was known as SoleNet Pty Ltd. SoleNet changed its name to Comms Service Ops, with effect from 10 July 2015.

‘What is particularly disturbing in this case is that this is the second occasion in recent times that the ACMA has found the company engaging in behaviour which failed to meet important consumer protections in the TCP Code,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

‘The ACMA also notes around the time that SoleNet changed its name to Comms Service Ops, four new companies were registered. These four companies—Tech Group AUS Pty Ltd, Tech Group NSW Pty Ltd, Tech Group QLD Pty Ltd and Tech Group VIC Pty Ltd—have the same sole director as Comms Service Ops and each trades under the name SoleNet. The sole director of all these entities was also the sole director of Sure Telecom, which itself clocked up multiple breaches of the code in 2014,’ Mr Chapman added.

The ACMA’s first investigation into this company was finalised on 9 April 2015. It found breaches of the Code relating to the transfer of customers to SoleNet from Sure Telecom Pty Ltd and resulted in the ACMA directing SoleNet to comply with the TCP Code.

The ACMA’s most recent investigation, finalised on 3 December 2015, found Comms Service Ops breached the TCP Code on 24 occasions in its dealings with customers in the investigation period by:

  • misrepresenting the nature of its calls to consumers
  • making misleading and inaccurate assertions
  • omitting key information.

It also found that Comms Service Ops failed to obtain informed consent from consumers before making a transfer on 23 occasions and failed to provide consumers with important information about the service on 24 occasions.

As Comms Service Ops had already been directed to comply with the TCP Code, the more recent code breaches also amounted to a breach of a Direction to Comply.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, on media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 65/2015 - 16 December

Backgrounder

The investigation

On 9 April 2015 the ACMA completed an investigation of SoleNet Pty Ltd’s (SoleNet) compliance with the TCP Code. The investigation found that SoleNet had contravened clauses 7.2, 7.3, 7.4 and 7.8 of the TCP Code in relation to the transfer of the customer base of Sure Telecom (which had ceased trading). On 9 April 2015, the ACMA issued a direction to SoleNet under subsection 121(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act), requiring it to comply with the TCP Code.

Following the issue of the ACMA’s direction, as part of the ACMA’s regular review of Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaint data, it noted a disproportionately large number of complaints about SoleNet—a potential indicator of ongoing TCP Code compliance issues. The ACMA requested details of customer complaints about that company from the TIO particularly in relation to customer transfers.

On 6 July 2015, the ACMA commenced an investigation into SoleNet’s compliance with the TCP Code. On 27 July 2015 the ACMA was advised that SoleNet had changed its company name to Comms Service Ops Pty Ltd. The Australian Company Number (ACN), address and director remained unchanged.

The ACMA’s investigation found that Comms Service Ops had contravened clauses 4.1.1, 7.2.1, 7.3.1 and 7.4.1 of the TCP Code 2012 between 14 April and 5 May 2015.  Specifically Comms Service Ops:

  • failed to communicate its offers in a way which was clear, accurate and not misleading, to allow consumers to make informed choices, on 24 occasions between 14 April 2015 and 5 May 2015
  • failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that the consumer had consented to the transfer on 23 occasions between 14 April 2015 and 5 May 2015
  • failed to ensure that consumers were informed about whether there would be an interruption to the telecommunications service as a result of the transfer process on 24 occasions between 14 April 2015 and 5 May 2015
  • failed to ensure that consumers were informed that they may have to pay a penalty or cancellation fee to their existing Supplier on 24 occasions between 14 April 2015 and 5 May 2015
  • failed to inform consumers that it would use reasonable efforts to notify them of the completion of the transfer on the day it occurred, or, if completion of the transfer relied on a third party, on the day.Comms Service Ops was advised that it had occurred on 24 occasions between 14 April 2015 and 5 May 2015.

The ACMA is currently considering its enforcement options.

Consumer tips

Be aware that you can authorise a transfer over the phone. Be careful how you answer unsolicited calls, make sure you know what you are being offered, listen carefully to everything you are told, be alert for contradictory information (such as being asked to agree to transfer the service at the end of the call, after being told you are just receiving information). If you are not interested, make that clear to the caller.

If you have been transferred without your consent, contact the new provider and tell them you did not authorise the transfer and ask to return to your selected provider. Contact your selected provider and explain the situation.

If this does not resolve the problem, contact the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 1800 062 058.

Further information can be found here on the ACMA website:

Enforcement

Where the ACMA finds a breach of the TCP Code it can give:

  • a Formal Warning about the conduct; or
  • a Direction to comply with the code.

Where the ACMA finds a breach of a direction to comply with the TCP Code, it can issue an infringement notice, commence proceedings in the Federal Court seeking a pecuniary penalty or accept an enforceable undertaking.



Last updated: 25 September 2017