1 June 2011
Customers to come first
Australia’s long-suffering telecommunications consumers can look forward to safeguards against ‘bill shock’, easier to understand plans and the more timely resolution of their issues, under a multi-layered plan to improve customer service released today by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
‘This is all about the consumer—better customer care, better service and a new approach from the industry,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, at the launch of the Reconnecting the Customer (RTC) draft public inquiry report.
Under the RTC proposals, more than a thousand Australian telcos and ISPs will need to deliver on six major consumer protection measures, while coming under greater regulatory scrutiny to make sure they follow through.
‘We are looking forward to the industry taking this ‘guidance’ and considering how it can best be included in the industry’s Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code,’ Mr Chapman said. ‘The code is currently under industry review so this is the opportunity for the industry to respond to the challenge. The industry response will certainly give an early indication of its readiness to effect the clearly needed step change—all in the interest of yielding materially improved consumer outcomes.’
Further, more direct intervention by imposing industry standards and service provider determinations has been foreshadowed by the ACMA as the preferred approach for several of the proposals.
‘The way the telecommunications industry in Australia has dealt with its customers must change,’ said Mr Chapman. ‘During our comprehensive review it also became clear the telcos understand the need for that change, and this plan provides both the specific action points and the incentives to implement them.’
A detailed list of the six points in the plan and their objectives are available on the ACMA website.
In summary, they are:
- Improved advertising practices, including the disclosure of a simple unit pricing rate (i.e. the amount you really pay for a call) to facilitate easy comparisons.
- Improved product disclosure information, especially about critical information with the emphasis on better, rather than more, information.
- The introduction of transparent customer care performance reporting.
- The provision of expenditure management tools for consumers to manage their costs (i.e. avoid ‘bill shock’), particularly by being able to monitor the accumulation of charges during a billing period.
- The adoption of best practice internal complaints-handling that meets the Australian Standard for Complaints-handling (AS ISO 10002-2006). This sets out guiding principles for key customer touch points: visibility, accessibility, responsiveness, objectivity, charging, confidentiality, accountability and continuous improvement.
- Changes to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman scheme—its governance and the prosecution of best practice standards and systemic issue reporting.
The Reconnecting the Customer draft report canvassed the views of industry, consumers and consumer advocacy groups and government, and is also supported by very extensive research, including consumer surveys. This research is also available on www.engage.acma.gov.au/reconnecting.
The deadline for submissions on the RTC draft report is 15 July 2011. They can be emailed to email@example.com
The ACMA’s final RTC report is expected to be released this August.
‘The success of the Reconnecting the Customer strategy in delivering material improvements in customer care is dependent on both sustained behavioural change by industry and strong regulatory oversight by the ACMA,’ Mr Chapman said. ‘We are confident that the industry will respond positively to the challenge, and will reaffirm the ACMA’s commitment to regulatory oversight in the final report.’
For more information and interviews, contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, on (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The ACMA is Australia’s regulator for broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications. The ACMA’s strategic intent is to make communications and media work in Australia’s public interest. For more information: www.acma.gov.au.