Wednesday, 18 October 2017 05:05

ACCAN says telco complaints systemic, better consumer protections needed Featured

By Peter Dinham

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network says the massive rise of 41% in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman indicates there are systemic issues with customer service in the industry, and a genuine need to update consumer protections.

ACCAN deputy chief executive Narelle Clark says the organisation is very concerned about the “significant, across the board, increase in complaints for landline, mobile and Internet services”, and the rise in complaints is reflective of the experiences it is hearing from consumers.

“This reverses the previous downward trend in complaint levels. We are therefore calling on all providers to lift their game and act to immediately improve customer service and the consumer experience”.

“Customer service was the top complaint issue overall. The report shows that all services and providers saw an increase in complaints indicating a genuine need to update consumer protections.”

Given the huge number of complaints about customer service, Clark says ACCAN believes that improved consumer protections are clearly needed more than ever before.

And she also says ACCAN considers the current review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code must improve community safeguards, especially in the areas of sales, service and contracts, billing, credit and debt management, changing suppliers, and complaint handling – and the industry must use this review to ensure enhanced consumer protections and better customer service.

Clark also points out that another consumer safeguard, the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG), has not been updated to match the technology and services consumers rely on.

The current CSG only applies to fixed voice services and the ACCAN says the high number of complaints about Internet services and Internet services delivered over the NBN shows an urgent need for a CSG that applies to internet services, puts in place obligations on the wholesale network as well as retail providers, and includes timeframes for fixing faults and getting connected.

“This is underlined by the fact that the highest NBN complaint numbers were from new connection delays and completely unusable Internet services,” Clark says.

“Today we rely on our internet services more than ever before to access everything we need. When consumers face repeated missed appointments with no reliable assurance of when a working service will commence they become rightfully angry.

“The complaint statistics show that many consumers are being left with no connection or a service that is completely unusable. This is not acceptable and it’s clear there is an urgent need for updated consumer guarantees. Considering the rollout of the NBN has reached scale and more consumers are making the switch, this must change.”

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