Carriers say compliance with TCP code under way

Telstra, Vodafone and Optus say they're already spearheading efforts to improve customer service.

Telcos said they’re already complying with many of the requirements of the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code. The code begins a phased-in approach 1 September.

The new TCP code, which is to be enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), aims to protect customers from unexpected charges, sort out confusing mobile plans and improve handling of customer complaints.

Vodafone has “not been waiting for this to be registered” by the ACMA, the carrier’s spokesman said. “We acknowledge that our network issues of late 2010 and early 2011 placed additional stress on our customer service channels, which gave us a very clear signal that we needed to drive significant changes to our approach to customer service, the majority of which have been implemented with further improvements to follow.”

Vodafone recently has extended call centre hours to 24/7, introduced new systems and processes to reduce customer wait times and give customers the option of a call back from support, the carrier said. To reduce bill shock, Vodafone customers can download an app to track usage or subscribe to SMS balance alerts. Roaming customers also receive SMS alerts to notify them of call rates, it said.

Optus worked over the past year with the code’s drafters to find ways to address problems identified in the code, Optus corporate and regulatory affairs vice president, David Epstein, said in a statement. Optus recently opened a new division focused on customer relationships, and has several projects in the work, including spending management tools, he said.

“Optus has been rolling out usage alerts on our postpaid plans since late last year,” an Optus spokesman added. “All in-market postpaid mobile plans now have usage alerts at 90 [per cent] of the included value and every $100 of excluded value. We will continue to expand these alerts in readiness for the September 2013 TCP Code deadline.”

“Telstra has been a key contributor in delivering this improved industry code while also working hard behind the scenes to simplify our offers and better protect our customers against bill shock,” a Telstra spokeswoman said. “These are just a couple of the initiatives that we’ve invested in over the past few years to improve customer service as want to be known for the best customer service in the industry.”

“This new code sets the standard for customer service and protections and after a lengthy and detailed review involving industry, government and consumer representatives it has resulted in a very substantial reform of the protections afforded to customers,” Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association CEO Chris Althaus said in a statement. “For example, the new spend management tools will allow consumers to keep track of their usage and spending on a range of services and avoid unexpectedly high bills.”

A better code and industry commitments to comply are helpful, but no substitute for strong laws and enforcement, said Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO Teresa Corbin.

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