The Australian Communications and Media Authority has directed two unrelated entities, Compare Communications Australia Pty Ltd and 123 Group Pty Ltd, to join the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme.
The TIO referred both Compare Communications and 123 Group (which operates the Virion brand) to the ACMA after numerous contacts with each company to notify them of their obligation to join the TIO scheme were not acted on.
After the ACMA conducted separate investigations into these companies, it concluded that both offer telephone and internet services to small business customers. They are therefore required, under telecommunications legislation, to join the TIO scheme.
‘These directions are a clear reminder to the telco industry that if you are offering carriage services to residential or small business customers, you need to be a member of the TIO scheme,’ said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.
The TIO scheme was established as part of the co-regulatory regime in the telecommunications industry to deal with complaints by residential and small business customers of telecommunication providers.
‘The ACMA will continue to actively support the TIO’s complaints resolution role by ensuring that all service providers who are required to join the TIO scheme do so,’ Mr Chapman said.
Before the Directions were given, the ACMA provided both companies with several opportunities to voluntarily join the TIO scheme or explain why they believe they should not be required to join. However, the ACMA notes that since the directions were given, Compare Communications has joined the TIO scheme. 123 Group is yet to do so.
The investigation reports into Compare Communications and 123 Group are available from the ACMA website.
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Media release 2/2015 - 22 January
The TIO scheme
The TIO is a free and independent alternative dispute resolution scheme for small business and residential consumers in Australia with unresolved complaints about their telephone or internet services. The TIO is independent of industry, the government and consumer organisations.
Where a consumer has a complaint, they should first contact the service provider that provides the service. Service providers are required to provide information to consumers on how they can make a complaint. Complaint handling processes must be accessible to all customers, including people with disabilities and those from non-English speaking backgrounds.
If a consumer is dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint, the service provider must advise them of their further options. Where appropriate, consumers are entitled to escalate their complaint with the provider, and if they are still dissatisfied they can contact the TIO.
The scheme allows the TIO to investigate, make determinations and give directions relating to complaints made by end-users about the provision or supply of telephone or internet services.
Members of the TIO scheme must comply with the scheme, which means that they agree to comply with the TIO Memorandum and Articles of Association and the TIO Constitution.
Obligation to join the TIO scheme
Part 6 of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 (TCPSS Act) sets out the requirement for eligible carriage service providers to enter the TIO scheme.
Under Part 6, eligible carriage service providers are those providers who supply a standard telephone service to residential or small business customers, a public mobile telecommunications service, or a carriage service that enables end-users to access the internet. A carriage service provider can be the owner of a telecommunications network or a reseller of services over a network owed by a third party.
The TIO has a policy and procedure for referring issues to the ACMA under Part 6 of the TCPSS Act. The ACMA can direct a carriage service provider to enter into the TIO scheme under the Telecommunications Act.