The universal service obligation (USO) ensures that standard telephone services are accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis, wherever they live or carry on business. Telstra is the only Universal Service Provider, but other carriage service providers (CSPs) may also offer standard telephone services.
More information can be found here - your right to a telephone service fact sheet
Connection and repair of services
The Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard sets timeframes for the connection of specified services, the repair of faults and the attendance at appointments by all telephone companies. You are entitled to automatic compensation if these timeframes are not met.
Interim and alternative services
Telstra is required to offer its USO customers access to an Interim or alternative service when there is an extended delay in connecting or repairing their standard telephone service. Other CSPs may offer these services. An interim service is a voice telephone service that uses mainly mobile or satellite technology and is charged at standard telephone service rates. An alternative service can take various forms, such as call diversion to a mobile or second fixed line telephone service. Telstra is not obliged to charge standard telephone service rates for this service.
Telstra is required to provide Priority assistance arrangements that are designed to maximise telephone service continuity for people with a diagnosed life-threatening medical condition and who are at risk of suffering a rapid, life-threatening deterioration in their condition. Eligible customers are to be provided with priority service connection and repair. Other CSPs may also provide this service.
Terms and conditions of service
Telecommunications service providers who use a Standard Form of Agreement are required to provide you with concise summaries of the terms and conditions applying to your service. These summaries are expected to be clear and simple, and readily accessible.
Untimed local calls
Consumers in all areas of Australia are entitled to a standard telephone services. CSPs who supply local calls over the standard telephone service must allow consumers who use this service to make untimed local calls. Calls to designated local areas at a flat, untimed rate. However, you may enter into contracts that provide for local calls at a timed rate if you choose to do so.
The USO requires Telstra to provide people with a disability or special needs, those who cannot use voice telephony because they are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment with an alternative form of communication at the same price as a standard handset. This is usually a text device such as a teletypewriter (TTY) or modem.
To enable text and voice telephony users to communicate with each other, the National Relay Service (NRS) provides text to voice and voice to text translation. The NRS operators provide a bridge between users of text devices and other telephone users, as well as assisting people with speech impairments to communicate using the telephone.
The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code
The C628:2012 Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (PDF, 796 kb) is a single code of practice developed by industry representatives and consumer organisations. It deals with issues which affect consumers such as billing, credit management, complaint handling, customer transfer, consumer contracts and the information providers must give customers about their prices, terms and conditions. Registration of the single code by the ACMA on 19 May 2008 means that the consumer protections are now set out in a single code rather than six separate codes.
The Privacy Act 1988 and the Telecommunications Act 1997 protect the way your personal information is handled by private sector organisations, including telecommunications companies. They cover the collection, use, disclosure, quality and security of personal information. They also give you the right to access and correct your information.
The ACMA has made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission:
You are entitled to have your complaints to telecommunications companies dealt with in a prompt, transparent and equitable manner. Making a complaint to your telecommunications service provider (PDF, 236 kb) explains your rights when you make a complaint to your phone or internet provider. If a complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
The TIO is an office of last resort to be involved in your dispute once all avenues for resolution with your telephone company have been explored.
Under the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standard) Act 1999 carriers and eligible carriage service providers are obliged to become members of, and comply with, the TIO scheme. The ACMA can direct an eligible carriage service provider to join or comply with the TIO scheme and can grant exemptions to providers from the requirement to join the scheme.
For further information please refer back to the list of topics under telecommunications and your rights and safeguards.