Thursday, 01 August 2019 11:25

TIO warns of 'misleading' NBN telemarketing

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The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's latest report describes the misleading behaviour of "a small number of retail service providers" and explains what consumers and businesses can do to protect themselves.

Certain RSPs' in-house or external telemarketers are making some consumers and small businesses feel pressured into signing up for NBN plans.

Tactics include misleading the potential customer about who the telemarketer works for, suggesting that the consumer's current provider will not be able to supply NBN services, suggesting that customers will lose their services and phone number unless they immediately sign up, telling small businesses that the telemarketer's company "takes care of all registered businesses", and providing inaccurate or unclear information about the details of the plan being sold.

The trouble with responding immediately to telemarketing calls is that it largely removes the opportunity to investigate other RSPs and to give serious consideration to the suitability of the plan being proposed.

The TIO also warns that even when a subsequent complaint is resolved by releasing the customer from the contract, they may have had to pay an early termination fee to the previous provider, or lost discounts or other benefits associated with their previous arrangements.

"Consumers are being told information about moving to the NBN that is simply not true and puts them at a disadvantage. This is concerning behaviour from a small group of phone and internet providers and should stop. In some cases we have shared information about this issue with the relevant regulators so they can consider further action," said Ombudsman Judi Jones.

"Moving to the NBN is not automatic, and consumers need to know they can make a measured and informed decision about which NBN provider is right for them. If the consumer is feeling pressured by a telemarketer, it is fine to hang up. If they find themselves signed up to a contract they don't want or need, and can't fix the issue with the provider, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman can help."

The TIO received 1729 complaints about NBN-related misleading conduct.

While the report gives two example cases, it unfortunately does not name and shame the companies involved in whichever of the 1729 complaints that were upheld. However, the TIO has referred at least one RSP to "the relevant regulators".

The TIO gives the following advice to consumers who are cold-called by telemarketers about NBN services:

• Check who the telemarketer is working for. Do this early in the call and hang up if the telemarketer is not clear.

Check whether you are signing up for a new plan on the old network, or on the NBN. If your area is not ready for the NBN there may be no need to transfer just yet. Go to NBN Co's website nbnco.com.au to find out if your area is ready to connect to the NBN.

• Take your time to thoroughly understand the details of the new phone or internet plan you are considering before agreeing to a new contract or plan. Ask for a copy of the plan on offer, including a Key Facts Sheet.

• Take your time to consider the offer. Do your own research and compare plans to decide which plan suits you best. Don't reveal any personal information before you're ready to sign up for a new plan.

• Check the disconnection date for your existing phone and internet service by contacting your current provider. Check you have received a letter from your current provider or NBN Co about a disconnection date.

• Know your rights about changing your mind. If you've been cold called by a telemarketer, in most cases you can cancel the contract within 10 business days.

The TIO also reminds consumers that they can register their phone numbers with ACMA's Do Not Call Register to reduce the number of telemarketing calls they receive.

'Misleading telemarketing of NBN services' is available for download here.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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