Major telcos put on notice over complaints-handling

At least four telcos threatened with potential $10 million fines over failing to meet ACMA standard

Aussie Broadband, Dodo, Exetel, Foxtel, iiNet, M2, Internode, MyRepublic, Optus, PRimus, TPG, and Vodafone Hutchison Australia are among dozens of telecommunications service providers put on notice over failing to meet mandatory complaints-handling standards.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority said today that its investigations had led to formal warnings being issued to 27 telcos for failing to make a documented complaints-handling process available to their customers.

In addition, Australia Broadband Pty Ltd, Flip TV Pty Limited, OzTalk Communications Pty Ltd and Simply NBN Pty Ltd (trading as Hello Broadband) were issued with remedial directions.

Of the 41 telcos the ACMA investigated, just seven were meeting the complaints-handling standards that kicked in on 1 July.

The standard is one of a suite of new rules introduced by the ACMA in an attempt to stem rising telecommunications complaints. Others have included a Service Continuity Standard, rules covering the process of migrating a household to the NBN, and a standard governing the information given to consumers in relation to NBN services.

In September, the chair of the ACMA, Nerida O’Loughlin, said that early indications from the compliance audit the regulator was undertaking were that “telcos still have a long way to go to comply with these new complaints-handling rules.”

“The ACMA expects carriers and service providers—whether large or small, or wholesale or retail—to take the necessary steps to inform themselves about the new rules and their business implications,” said an August ACMA statement on compliance and enforcement of the new rules.

“Carriers and carriage service providers must plan and implement any necessary changes to their practices and compliance assurance programs.”

“Having a documented complaints-handling process available for customers should be standard practice for every telco,” O’Loughlin said in a statement released today.

“Consumers should know how their telco will deal with their complaint. They should also have confidence that their complaint will be dealt with effectively, without ‘buck-passing’ across the service supply chain.”

“Effective complaints-handling is even more critical as the migration of customers to services delivered over the NBN reaches its peak,” she added.

“It is fundamentally important for consumers and small businesses that they are provided with the information they need to empower them to complain should a problem arise,” said the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network’s director of policy, Una Lawrence.

“Additionally, any complaints that arise should be dealt with fairly and promptly,” Lawrence said. “This is especially the case during the NBN switchover, which is compelling consumers to reconsider their telco arrangements, make decisions about their service needs, and engage with telco retailers.”

The federal government is currently considering a major revamp of how telco-related complaints are dealt with.

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Tags TelecommunicationsAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)Australian Communications and Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)

More about AustraliaAustralian Communications and Media AuthorityExetelFoxtelHutchisonInternodeMyRepublicnbnOptusVodafone

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