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Telecommunications consumer protection code

Sure Telecom: multiple breaches of consumer code

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued Sure Telecom Pty Ltd (Sure Telecom) with a direction to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code after the ACMA found that Sure Telecom breached 19 separate clauses of the Code.   

The direction is the result of an ACMA investigation that found Sure Telecom Pty Ltd breached the TCP Code on multiple occasions during March 2014, including by making unauthorised customer transfers from other providers.

‘The behaviour of Sure Telecom is completely unacceptable,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘The extent of non-compliance with some of the most important telecommunications consumer safeguards is very disturbing.’ 

>       Twelve of the rules breached by Sure Telecom relate to the communication of telecommunications offers and sales practices. These rules require providers to ensure sales representatives accurately and fairly promote their products and provide all relevant information to consumers before completing a sale.

>       Seven rules were breached relating to changing suppliers. The TCP Code says that transfers between suppliers should only take place after authorisation has occurred and with the customer’s informed consent. 

‘Consumers should think carefully about a company’s compliance culture and history when shopping around and choosing a new provider,’ Mr Chapman said.

Sure Telecom was issued with a direction to comply on 10 September 2014.

The company has since been placed in external administration. The ACMA is now investigating whether customers of Sure Telecom Pty Ltd have been properly transferred to other related telecommunication providers, including Telco Service Holdings Pty Ltd and a new provider, SoleNet Pty Ltd, in a way that complies with the TCP Code.

The same holding company controls each of Sure Telecom Pty Ltd, Telco Service Holdings Pty Ltd and SoleNet Pty Ltd; and the sole director of Sure Telecom Pty is also a director of those other companies.

Telco Services Holdings Pty Ltd, which was formerly called Sure Telecom Pty Ltd, has previously been the subject of ACMA enforcement action.

That company was given formal warnings for a September 2012 privacy breach and an April 2013 breach of the requirement to make available a critical information summary that complied with the TCP Code. It was issued with a direction  for non-compliance with reporting requirements under the TCP Code which were due by April 2013.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 67/2014 - 22 October


Making communications and media work in Australia’s public interest. acma.gov.au | 


Backgrounder

 Unauthorised transfer – what a consumer should do

A consumer should first contact their provider and lodge a complaint. The TCP Code requires providers to have a complaints handling process that is accessible, transparent and free of charge allowing for the timely and fair resolution of complaints.

If a consumer is not satisfied with the way a provider has dealt with their complaint, they may contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).  The TIO scheme is a dispute resolution scheme for residential and small business customers established to provide free, independent and speedy resolution of complaints.

The investigation

 Based on advice from the TIO regarding an increase in complaint numbers, on
5 May 2014 the ACMA commenced an investigation into Sure Telecom’s compliance with the TCP Code. The investigation focussed on compliance with chapter 4 and chapter 7 of the TCP Code. Those chapters deal with pre-sale information to consumers and customer transfer.

The ACMA’s investigation found that Sure Telecom failed to ensure it communicated its offers in a way which was clear, accurate and not misleading on 21 occasions during March 2014. It also found that on 21 occasions during the same period, Sure Telecom failed to ensure it provided information about its offers in a comprehensible, clear and accurate manner, without exaggeration and without the omission of key information.

In relation to customer transfers/changing suppliers, amongst other breaches, the investigation found that during March 2014, Sure Telecom had failed on 21 occasions to obtain consent to a customer contract in a fair and accurate manner and that on 21 occasions Sure Telecom had misrepresented its affiliation or relationship with another provider.  

Sure Telecom advised that the sales team responsible for the sales calls and transfers assessed during the ACMA investigation was subsequently dismissed.

Enforcement

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

>       agree with the telecommunications provider on steps it will take to remedy the breach or improve compliance

>       give a formal warning; or

>       give a direction to comply with the code.

It cannot ‘fine’ the telecommunications provider. However, if a telecommunications provider who has been given a direction breaches that direction (for example, by contravening the TCP Code again), the ACMA can commence proceedings in the Federal Court seeking a pecuniary penalty.

Since the TCP Code was registered in September 2012, the ACMA has:

>       issued 152 formal warnings

>       given 23 directions to comply

>       given one infringement notice for contravening a direction to comply.

 

 

 

Last updated: 10 December 2015

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