Conroy proposes Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Scheme reform

Options include new industry code, public reporting power

A discussion paper which proposes giving the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) scheme more power to enforce telecommunications regulations was released today by Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The discussion paper (PDF) forms part of the continuing reforms to telecommunications consumer safeguards.

“The recently released TIO statistics show that complaints to the ombudsman remain at very high levels and this is not acceptable,” said Senator Conroy in a statement.

According to the TIO, overall complaints for the July to December 2010 period increased nine per cent, driven by a sharp increase in mobile phone service issues. Mobile phone issues alone increased some 20 per cent.

“While I acknowledge the hard work the TIO does to deliver consumers with quick and effective solutions, I want to ensure it has the appropriate tools to deal with complaints,” he said.

Some options strengthen the compliance and enforcement regime could include a new industry code or standard providing the TIO with a public reporting power, strengthening the compliance mechanisms under the existing Telecommunication Consumers Protection (TCP) Code, and providing the Australian Consumer Communications Action Network (ACMA) with the ability to issue infringement notices.

The discussion paper is meant to compliment ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer inquiry and the Communications Alliance’s review of the TCP.

“I strongly encourage both industry and consumer advocacy groups, along with members of the public who have had dealings with the TIO, to respond to the discussion paper,” said Senator Conroy. “This will help provide valuable insights into the way the telecommunications industry is dealing with its customers.”

Following consultation on the issues raised in the discussion paper, Senator Conroy said he anticipated that options for reform will be put forward in the first half of 2011.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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