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Action on telco safeguards: July to September 2018

 

Direction to comply - Telco safeguards logo Telstra directed to audit its priority assistance service for customers with life-threatening medical conditions.

New rules finalised - Telco safeguards Audit of 41 telcos’ written complaints-handling processes
There are indications of widespread shortcomings against the information requirements in the new Complaints-handling Standard.

Audit - Telco safeguards $12,600 penalty paid by Lycamobile Pty Ltd after breaching the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code.

Investigations finalised  3 telcos directed to comply with the TCP Code (Digital Technologies & Telecommunications Pty Ltd, Vocal Channels Pty Ltd and Southern Phone Company Limited) and 3 telcos formally warned to comply with the TCP Code (Peak Connect Pty Ltd, MyRepublic Pty Ltd and Red Telecom Pty Ltd).

Formal warning 15 investigations finalised and 59 new investigations opened—see Figure 3 and Figure 4.

Formal warning Better practice guide published to help telcos provide more useful information to consumers moving to the NBN.

hat - Telco safeguards Industry ‘tune-ups’ held to educate providers about new complaints-handling and NBN migration rules.

Direction to comply - Telco safeguards logo  8 new consumer organisations joined the Consumer Consultative Forum.

Read on for full details.

New NBN consumer rules

The ACMA recently made new rules for the telecommunications industry. As indicated in the ACMA’s Statement of Approach, the time-critical nature of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout means that consistent industry compliance with the new rules is essential.

The new rules require telcos to help consumers get the information they need to make informed choices, have service options if issues arise, and address consumer complaints effectively and in a timely manner.

Industry education—complaints-handling and migration rules tune-ups

The ACMA conducted ‘tune-ups’ in Sydney and Melbourne (which were also streamed online) to educate industry providers about new complaints handling and migration rules.

In the tune-ups, the ACMA delivered presentations on the new rules and articulated its proposed approach to compliance and enforcement for the rules.

New better practice guide for telcos

The ACMA has published a new resource, which uses behavioural insights from consumers to help telcos provide clearer and more useful information to consumers moving to the NBN—A better practice guide for NBN providers.

The guide was jointly developed by the ACMA and the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA).

Audit of written complaints-handling processes

In July and August 2018, the ACMA audited the written complaints-handling processes published on the websites of 41 telcos against the requirements in the new Complaints-handling Standard.1 A mix of small, medium and larger providers were selected for audit to test and drive compliance right across the industry—with TIO complaints levels used as a proxy for size.2

Figure 1: Number of telcos audited, per category

Figure 1 Number of telcos audited, per category

Observations—level of compliance

Our review of the written complaints-handling process available on each telco’s website suggested:

  • two telcos appeared to have no written complaints-handling process on their website
  • seven telcos appeared to have substantial (15 or more) deficiencies in their written processes
  • the majority of telcos appeared to have written processes with key ‘early’ information for consumers wanting to make a complaint—such as how to make a complaint. However, few of those written processes contained the comprehensive information required by the Standard

Common areas of apparent deficiency included:

  • failing to have information that can be accessed via a link on the homepage of its website about how to contact the telco to make a complaint or enquiry3
  • failing to identify the relevant time periods associated with each step in the complaints-management process, including:
    • the response times for the resolution of complaints
    • time frames for informing consumers about the management of vexatious complaints
    • time frames when a telco is unable to contact a consumer to discuss their complaint
    • time frames for consumers to receive confirmation about complaint management steps in writing upon request.4
  • not including a process for classifying complaints and a description of each category of classification5
  • not setting out clear internal processes for escalation and prioritisation of complaints and the time frames for notifying customers about these processes6
  • not requiring personnel to clarify with consumers if they want to make a complaint, or setting out steps for personnel to assist consumers with special needs or disabilities to formulate, make and progress a complaint7
  • including a reference to charging for complaints in specified circumstances, when the Complaints-handling Standard makes clear that a complaints-handling process must be free-of-charge for consumers to use8
  • not including a mandatory statement that a consumer’s service will not be cancelled if they seek external dispute resolution.9

Figure 2: Common areas of apparent deficiency—detailed breakdown

Figure 2 Common areas of apparent deficiency-detailed breakdown

Following its review, the ACMA commenced 41 investigations and many providers moved swiftly to rectify the shortcomings identified in their written processes. As at 31 October, the ACMA had finalised three of these investigations with no adverse findings recorded. The ACMA anticipates that the remaining investigations will be finalised before the end of 2018.

Enforcement action may be taken where continued breaches are found.

The ACMA will determine the appropriate enforcement response (if any) when it finalises each investigation. In line with usual practice, the ACMA proposes to publish any enforcement action taken against individual telcos.

Figure 3: Investigations into compliance with new NBN rules

 Figure 3 Investigations into compliance with new NBN rules 

Finalised investigations

Organisation* Outcome Details

Three telco providers 

No adverse findings regarding compliance with Complaints- handling Standard

The ACMA closed two of these investigations, making no adverse findings as the issues were minor and immediately addressed.
The third investigation was closed as the relevant entity was no longer operating.

* The ACMA does not generally publish the names of entities that have not breached or where enforcement actions have not been finalised.

Other telco compliance activities during the quarter

Finalised enforcement actions

Enforcement action may be taken where breaches are found. We consider a range of matters when determining which enforcement option should be pursued (if any), including the nature of the conduct and whether the telco has been the subject of other compliance or enforcement action by the ACMA and the outcomes of that action.

Organisation Breach details Enforcement outcome Actions

Telstra Corporation Limited

Breach of clause 19(2) of its Carrier Licence Conditions relating to priority assistance

Remedial direction

Directed to audit and take other action to ensure it does not contravene clause 19(2) of its Carrier Licence Conditions relating to priority assistance

Digital Technologies & Telecommunications Pty Ltd (trading as Airlan) 

Failure to provide mandatory attestation and to register with Communications Alliance (CA)

Direction

Directed to comply with the TCP Code 

Vocal Channels Pty Ltd 

Failure to provide mandatory attestation and to register with CA

Direction

Directed to comply with the TCP Code

Southern Phone Company Limited

Failure to provide mandatory attestation

Direction

Directed to comply with clause 9.4.1(a) of the TCP Code

Lycamobile Pty Ltd

Breach of a direction to comply with the TCP Code and compliance attestation

Infringement notice

Paid penalty of $12,600 after failing to comply with a direction to comply with the TCP Code.

Peak Connect Pty Ltd

Failure to provide mandatory attestation and to register with CA

Formal warning

Formally warned for not complying with the TCP Code

MyRepublic Pty Ltd 

Failure to provide mandatory attestation and to register with CA

Formal warning

Formally warned for not complying with the TCP Code

Red Telecom Pty Ltd 

Failure to provide mandatory attestation and to register with CA

Formal warning

Formally warned for not complying with the TCP Code

Compliance and investigation activities in the quarter

We undertake compliance actions (including direct contact with telcos), assessments and investigations, to uncover and address serious or systemic compliance issues.

Figure 4: Other compliance and investigation activities in the quarter

Figure 4 Other compliance and investigation activities in the quarter

Finalised investigations

Organisation* Outcome Details

Telstra Corporation Limited

Breach of Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009

Failure to ensure that certain calls made to Triple Zero using its network were carried to the operator of the emergency call service 

Tech Project Pty Ltd

Breach of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999

Failure to join the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme, as required

Technology Company

No breach of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999

Alleged failure to join the TIO scheme

Digital Technologies & Telecommunications Pty Ltd (trading as Airlan)
Vocal Channels Pty Ltd
Peak Connect Pty Ltd
MyRepublic Pty Ltd
Red Telecom Pty Ltd 

Breach of the TCP Code 

Failure to provide mandatory attestation statements about compliance practices and to register with CA as required

Southern Phone Company Limited

Breach of the TCP Code 

Failure to provide mandatory attestation statements

Lycamobile Pty Ltd

Breach of a direction to comply with the TCP Code issued under section 121 of the Telecommunications Act 1997

Failure to comply with a direction and provide mandatory attestation statements

Two telco providers 

No breach of the TCP Code 

Alleged failure to provide mandatory attestation statements about compliance practices

* The ACMA does not generally publish the names of entities that have not breached or where enforcement actions have not been finalised.

Consumer education—is your internet connection working at its best?

The ACMA released a series of animations to educate consumers about in-home factors affecting internet performance, including Wi-Fi and cabling.

The animations provide tips to help consumers get the most out of their broadband service.

Changing membership of the Consumer Consultative Forum

The ACMA has recently appointed eight new consumer organisation members to its Consumer Consultative Forum. This forum helps industry and government better understand community needs. The new members are:

  • Consumer Policy Research Centre
  • Country Womens’ Association of Australia
  • Deaf Australia
  • Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia
  • LegalAid NSW
  • NSW Business Chamber
  • South Australian Council of Social Services
  • WEstjustice

The new members will join standing members—Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Communications Alliance, and the Australian Mobile Telecommunication Association—to discuss key telecommunications issues.

Consumer complaints and other information

If you have a problem about your telecommunications service, find out about your rights and make a complaint to your internet, mobile or landline service provider.

If your complaint to your service provider is not resolved, or if you are dissatisfied with the response, you are entitled to take your complaint to the TIO.

1 Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018.

2 This methodology is intended to give an indicator of likely spread across the industry, but does not purport to be an exact representation of company size or market share. Caution should therefore be taken in drawing conclusions about the extent of consumer detriment arising from any potential non-compliance with the Complaints-handling Standard.

3 See subsection 8(3) of the Complaints-handling Standard.

4 See section 9 of the Complaints-handling Standard.

5 See paragraph 10(g) of the Complaints-handling Standard.

6 See paragraphs 10(a) and (b) and section 15 of the Complaints-handling Standard.

7 See paragraph 8(1)(k) of the Complaints-handling Standard.

8 See paragraph 8(1)(d) of the Complaints-handling Standard.

9 See paragraph 10(f) of the Complaints-handling Standard.

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