To get a fuller picture of the problem, the Commission announced on Thursday that it is asking the country's telecommunications providers for their views on the key pain points being experienced by consumers and what needs to be done to address them, across all dimensions of customer experience.
This includes selecting and buying telecommunications services, the day-to-day performance of the service and provider, changing to another provider, and the complaints process.
The New Zealand regulator’s announcement comes just one day after Australia’s telecommunications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), announced it is backing reform of current regulatory safeguards in the telecommunications sector after its research showed telco consumers, particularly businesses, are still battling with service outages and complaints handling.
ACMA’s announcement coincided with a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) revealing that complaints about phone and Internet services in Australia by small businesses have grown overall for the third consecutive quarter, with residential consumers and small businesses lodging 34,476 complaints in the three months between July and September - an increase of 3.4% on the previous quarter - and the third consecutive quarter of incremental growth in overall complaints.
In New Zealand, the Commerce Commission says the number of consumer complaints is an indicator of consumer experience and, over the past year, consumer complaints and enquiries to the industry dispute resolution scheme, the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Scheme (TDRS), and the Commerce Commission have increased.
“The increase in complaints indicates that telecommunications providers need to lift their game to improve outcomes for consumers,” said Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson.
“We’re asking for specific examples of the problems consumers are running into and views on how things could be done better. This will help us to understand what needs to change to make a meaningful difference for New Zealand consumers,” said Commissioner Gilbertson.
Recognising the importance of effective dispute resolution, the Commission says it is also calling for views on how the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme could be improved for consumers, as part of a formal review of these arrangements.
“We look forward to working with industry and consumer stakeholders to produce a plan for improving consumer outcomes – so we get satisfaction levels up and complaint levels down.”