Every year we highlight priority compliance and education activities to help protect telecommunications consumers.
In 2018, our compliance activities will focus on five areas:
||Services supplied over the National Broadband Network (NBN)
||Selling practices and financial hardship
||Information about products and services for consumers with a disability
Our education activities will focus on the following areas:
Identifying our compliance and education priorities
We set these priorities after gathering intelligence about issues related to compliance or areas of consumer detriment, and assessing the level of risk. Through this analysis, we identify systemic issues requiring a robust response. This allows us to effectively focus our resources on higher-risk issues, while continuing to monitor and appropriately respond to other matters that may warrant attention.
The priorities were informed by:
- findings of the information-gathering exercise we conducted on industry practices for Migrating to the National Broadband Network—the consumer experience: Key findings from analysis of industry information (December 2017)
- the second consumer-tracking research study following up our Reconnecting the Customer (RTC) Inquiry (December 2016)
- recent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaint statistics
- discussions with stakeholders, including the ACMA’s Consumer Consultative Forum
- recent compliance activities, where deficiencies in industry compliance exist.
Compliance priorities: focus areas
As a major source of consumer concern identified in the RTC research and through recent TIO statistics, complaints-handling is an area in which the customer experience can be improved. Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code), suppliers are required to have a complaints-handling process that is customer-focused, accessible and easy-to-use.
We’re also developing new rules that will specify minimum standards for telcos’ complaints-handling processes and a requirement for telcos to report their complaint numbers to us so that we can monitor the changes. Unlike the current industry codes, the new rules, which will be in place by mid-2018, will be immediately and directly enforceable by the ACMA.
Services supplied over the NBN
With the large number of consumers migrating to the NBN, we are continuing to focus on ensuring retail service providers (RSPs) comply with their obligations under the TCP Code. This includes working with the TIO and Communications Compliance to identify systemic consumer compliance issues. Our compliance activities will focus on key areas of the TCP Code, including the provision of critical information summaries and advertising.
In the second half of 2018, our compliance work will centre on new rules we’re currently developing to better protect consumers migrating to the NBN. The new rules will:
- specify the minimum information that RSPs must provide about their network services before they sign consumers up
- require RSPs to ‘line test’ new services on the network to ensure that lines are working and faults are identified early
- require consumers to be reconnected to legacy network services, if that fallback is needed, until their new network service is successfully connected.
As new RSPs enter the market, we will work with Communications Compliance, Communications Alliance and the TIO, as appropriate, to ensure that suppliers submit TCP Code compliance statements to Communications Compliance, register with Communications Alliance and become members of the TIO as required.
Selling practices and financial hardship
The Rank the Telco report (published by the Financial and Consumer Rights Council in April 2017), TIO complaint statistics and stakeholder feedback have all highlighted concerns with industry selling practices and financial hardship practices. Under the TCP Code, suppliers must provide spend management tools and have a Financial Hardship Policy that is easy to find and access. Suppliers must also ensure their sales representatives are appropriately trained to sell their products in a fair and accurate manner.
There was a sharp rise in the number of complaints the TIO received about customer service in 2016–17. Under the TCP Code, suppliers must seek feedback from customers about how they deal with enquiries, use this feedback to identify systemic issues and take steps to implement improvements to their processes. Suppliers must also keep average wait times to a minimum, taking into account individual circumstances.
Information about products and services for consumers with a disability
Research published by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network in September 2017 indicates that telecommunications customer-facing staff have gaps in awareness and knowledge of products and services that may meet the identified needs of consumers with a disability. It’s important that suppliers advise consumers with a disability (or their carers) about suitable products and services.
Education priorities: focus areas
Improved information about services supplied over the NBN
The ACMA is developing new rules that require RSPs to provide better information to help their customers migrate to, and use, services on the NBN. Once the new rules are in place by mid-2018, we will be educating RSPs on their new obligations and consumers on their rights and responsibilities.
Good complaints-handling practices
Complaints to the TIO in 2016–17 increased by 41 per cent on the previous year, suggesting that the complaints-handling practices of some providers are falling short of the standards consumers expect. We will provide educational information to suppliers to help them improve their complaints-handling practices and understand the new minimum standards that will be in place by mid-2018.
The ACMA will educate consumers about their rights under the TCP Code. Improving awareness of critical information summaries (particularly for services on the NBN) will continue to be an area of key focus.
Industry education will also focus on emerging issues encountered during compliance activities. Announcements of enforcement action will also be used to provide advice on complying with the code.
Your rights when something goes wrong
We will educate consumers on their rights when things go wrong. This will include providing advice on how best to make a complaint and information on suppliers’ complaints-handling obligations.
Want to stay informed?
For regular updates on compliance issues, follow @acmadotgov on Twitter or subscribe to the telco matters e-bulletin.