Telco customers are beginning to enjoy the benefits of stronger safeguards, rolled out following the registration of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code in September 2012.
The ACMA is continuing to track the impact of these changes, with recent research showing that clearer product information, improved complaints-handling processes, and tools to help customers manage usage and spend are having a positive effect.
In the know
One of the key new protections is the Critical Information Summary (CIS)—a compulsory two-page handout of clear, essential information about a service or plan, including costs and inclusions. While this research was conducted before it became obligatory for telcos to provide a CIS, many consumers have already used one, so awareness is growing.
Of the 32 per cent of bill-payers who had seen a CIS, 82 per cent found it useful. Compared to those who hadn’t seen a CIS, it was easier for these customers to compare offers than 12 months earlier.
The research included in-depth interviews with some participants. This group nominated the benefits of a CIS as:
- saving time when comparing products
- containing all the relevant information, which isn’t always available on the website
- being presented in everyday language and limited to only two pages.
If I had had this with my plan, I would have known exactly where I stood. It would have saved a lot of grief for me; I had nothing to refer to when my provider changed my plan. [The CIS] would have made my life a heck of a lot easier. (Male, Sydney)
I can keep it, stick it on the fridge, and if I have any questions I can refer to it. (Female, Regional NSW)
Participants also had suggestions for how to make it easier to evaluate or compare offers, including a provider giving simple explanations of key technical aspects:
Technology is moving so quickly and trying to keep up with it is a feat within itself … it’s hard to understand the jargon. If someone takes the time to walk us through it, we’ve gone with them. (Female, Regional VIC)
At your service
The majority of customers who had dealings with their telco providers (72 per cent) were satisfied with the level of customer service—88 per cent were satisfied when their contact was not related to a complaint and 54 per cent were satisfied when the contact was related to a complaint.
However, the TCP Code’s focus on speedy resolution of complaints is certainly well targeted. The faster complaints are resolved, the more likely a customer is to be satisfied with the handling of their complaint:
- Three times more people are satisfied when a complaint is resolved either immediately or within two working days than if resolution takes more than three weeks.
- Five times more people are satisfied when a complaint is resolved either immediately or within two working days than if the complaint is not resolved.
- For those whose complaint took more than three weeks to resolve, those who were informed of the reason for the delay and given a new timeframe for resolution were three times more likely to be satisfied than if they were not informed.
It would have been wonderful to speed things up and put my issue in the right hands, to anyone who could help. It was going around in circles, into a dead-end. (Female, NSW)
The research complements other ways of monitoring the effectiveness of the TCP Code, such as the level of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, which have been decreasing and the ACMA’s own compliance checks.