Thursday, 11 July 2019 07:43

Telco complaints show need for reliability safeguards: ACCAN Featured

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Teresa Corbin: “When people buy a product or service, they rightly expect it to work as promised." Teresa Corbin: “When people buy a product or service, they rightly expect it to work as promised." Supplied

Unreliable telecommunications services are resulting in hundreds of thousands of complaints, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network says, calling for greater reliability safeguards to reduce this number.

A report released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority on Wednesday showed that 448,470 complaints were filed by consumers in the final quarter of 2018.

The ACCAN said in a statement that taking into account the number of telecommunications services in the country, this came to 108 complaints per 10,000 services – a 10.2% increase over the previous quarter.

The organisation, which styles itself as the consumer voice for Australian phone and internet users, said it was disappointed to note that telecommunications service faults were among the highest cause of complaints.

“The collection and release of this data by the ACMA is a big step forward in addressing telco accountability,” said ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin.

“The ACMA’s work will provide an important additional insight into the issues facing telecommunications consumers.”

The ACCAN also pointed out that the released data showed that telecommunications providers took a median time of six days to fix issues.

“When people buy a product or service, they rightly expect it to work as promised," said Corbin.

"It’s simply unacceptable for the millions of Australians who are connected to essential communications services to be left waiting for days on end without the service they have paid for. Consumers should have a right to reliability.”

The ACCAN said it had, in the past, highlighted the need for consumer protections that ensured reliability to be extended to fixed-line broadband services from all retail service providers.

The organisation said it had also proposed, in response to Part B of the Consumer Safeguards Review, that connection and repair times for fixed-line services should be the same as the Customer Service Guarantee and be defined in days, not working days.

It expressed particular concern over the high number of complaints for NBN voice-only services, as this was an important services for older people and those in rural and remote areas.

“NBN voice-only customers had the greatest ratio of complaints per services in operation, according to the ACMA’s data," said Corbin.

"We know that some Australians are still solely reliant on their home phones, so faults with these services would leave them vulnerable and unable to communicate.”

The ACCAN said more transparency from telcos who had been named in the ACMA report, along with the data on complaints against them.

“While we’re pleased to see more complaints data made public, consumers deserve the right to make informed decisions about their telco provider," said Corbin.

"By naming the telcos in this data, it would allow consumers to consider telcos’ complaint-handling records when shopping around for a phone or Internet provider.”

The ACCAN pointed out that this approach had been recommended by the government in its response to Consumer Safeguards Part A: Complaints handling and consumer redress, but had not yet been implemented.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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