The Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have refreshed their Memorandum of Understanding with a view to working together more seamlessly in delivering better outcomes for Australian telecommunications consumers and an improved industry.
‘The revised MoU consolidates a streamlined process for referrals and exchange of information that has been in development since the new Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code came into effect,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.
Ombudsman Simon Cohen welcomed the new arrangements, saying the MOU reflects the already close working relationship between the two agencies.
‘The renewed MoU provides clear arrangements so that compliance and enforcement issues arising from complaints made to the TIO can be promptly referred to the Regulator for consideration,’ Mr Cohen said.
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Media release 92/2013 - 12 December
Photo: ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman (left) and TIO Ombudsman Simon Cohen at the MoU signing
The TIO provides an external dispute resolution service for residential and small business consumers who cannot solve their complaint with their service provider.
The TIO service is free and aims to settle disputes quickly, objectively and non-bureaucratically. It is independent of government, industry and consumer organisations. Its income is generated solely from members who are charged fees when complaints are received from one of their customers.
The TIO’s 2012/13 Annual Report noted an 18 per cent reduction from the previous financial year in consumer complaints about landline, mobile and internet issues. Complaints to the TIO are at a five year low. It attributed this to better customer service, an improved industry code and the ACMA’s focus on compliance.
The ACMA’s role is to ensure industry compliance with the TCP Code and the TIO scheme.
Since the registration of the TCP Code, the ACMA has taken a stronger enforcement stance as part of its compliance approach.
It has sent more than 340 letters to service providers seeking information about possible non-compliance with the TCP Code, issued107 formal warnings and given 10 directions about non-compliant behaviour. A handful of companies have also been directed to join the TIO scheme—all carriers and eligible carriage service providers must be members.
In addition there are seven investigations underway about compliance with the TCP Code and the TIO scheme.
The TCP Code was registered in September 2012. A number of consumer protections have been progressively phased in over the subsequent 12 months, with the majority in place by 1 September 2013. These protections are for residential and small business consumers and are aimed at addressing key areas such as preventing bill shock and confusing phone plans.
Amongst the changes was the introduction of critical information summaries which are intended to allow consumers to more easily compare products, and the introduction of notifications about data usage and expenditure thresholds.[Possible links here to related releases/blogs]
The TCP Code has also resulted in faster and better complaints-handling by suppliers, with urgent complaints now resolved within two days. Additionally, important conditions, limitations, qualifications or restrictions in product advertisements must now be identified to potential customers, and there are greater controls over the use of terms such as ‘unlimited’ and a cessation of the use of a ‘cap’, unless the offer contains a hard cap.
By 1 September 2014, the last of the spend management tool provisions will have been phased in for voice and sms. This requires all suppliers to send notification alerts of usage within included value plans no later than 48 hours after the customer has reached a data usage level of 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent.