Wednesday, 16 December 2015 15:35

Serial offender faces penalties for breaches of TCP code Featured

Serial offender faces penalties for breaches of TCP code Image courtesy of Stuart Miles,

Telco Comms Service Ops – previously known as SoleNet – has repeatedly breached the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP) – including twice in recent weeks - and now faces penalties from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The ACMA, which is still considering what penalties it will impose on the company, says Comms Service Ops breached the TCP Code on multiple occasions between 14 April and 5 May this year.

The company has also been found to have breached previous orders to comply.

The ACMA findings against Comms Service Ops come after the ACMA, earlier this month,updated the TCP Code to provide more ‘flexibility and simplicity’ for telcos. The changes provide guidance on how telcos are to provide information, removes duplication under Australian Consumer Law and the Privacy Act, and cuts down on repetition of obligations in the code.

The finding against Comms Service Ops follow closely the ACMA’s decision just six days ago - as reported by iTWire - to give a “slap on the wrist” to telecommunications service providers, Vaya and Live Connected, for breaches of the TCP by requiring $20 security deposits from all their customers.

And, in September, the authority took action against 24 telcos for breaches of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP), issuing formal warnings over their failure to lodge documents with Communications Compliance (CommCom) as they are required to do under the TCP Code.

Commenting on today’s findings against Comms Service Ops, the ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said “What is particularly disturbing in this case is that this is the second occasion in recent times that the ACMA has found the company engaging in behaviour which failed to meet important consumer protections in the TCP Code.

“The ACMA also notes around the time that SoleNet changed its name to Comms Service Ops, four new companies were registered. These four companies—Tech Group AUS Pty Ltd,  Tech Group NSW Pty Ltd, Tech Group QLD Pty Ltd and Tech Group VIC Pty Ltd—have the same sole director as Comms Service Ops and each trades under the name SoleNet.

“The sole director of all these entities was also the sole director of Sure Telecom, which itself clocked up multiple breaches of the code in 2014.”

The ACMA’s first investigation into the company was finalised on 9 April this year (2015), and it found breaches of the Code relating to the transfer of customers to SoleNet from Sure Telecom Pty Ltd and resulted in the ACMA directing SoleNet to comply with the TCP Code.

In its findings published today, the ACMA’s most recent investigation, finalised on 3 December, found Comms Service Ops breached the TCP Code on 24 occasions between April 14 and May 5, 2015, finding the company had:

•    Misrepresented the nature of calls made to its customers

•    Made misleading and inaccurate assertions

•    Omitted key information

•    Failed to obtain informed consent from consumers before transferring their services from SoleNet to Sure Telecom

•    Failed to provide consumers with important information about interruptions to its service during the transfers

•    Failed to inform consumers that penalty or cancellation fees may have to be paid, and failed to notify customers of the completion of the transfer.

The ACMA also found that Comms Service Ops failed to obtain informed consent from consumers before making a transfer on 23 occasions and failed to provide consumers with important information about the service on 24 occasions.

The ACMA says that as Comms Service Ops had already been directed to comply with the TCP Code, the more recent code breaches also amounted to a breach of a Direction to Comply.

At the time of the breaches the company was known as SoleNet Pty Ltd. SoleNet changed its name to Comms Service Ops, with effect from 10 July 2015.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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