ACCC has issued a warning to the telecommunications industry, saying that it must raise its standards in its treatment of consumers or risk increased scrutiny and action.
ACCC Chairman, Mr. Graeme Samuel said the ACCC expects carriers to close off access to their mobile networks for rogue operators.
“Problems such as misleading advertising, unfair contracts and deceptive mobile phone competitions have been allowed to proliferate by service providers, publishers and carriers, who have turned a blind eye while taking a slice of the profits. It is no longer acceptable for carriers to wash their hands of responsibility as operators use their networks to entrap phone company customers with unwanted, expensive and difficult to unwind subscription services,” says Samuel.
“If all carriers do not exhibit a responsible attitude to closing down rogue operators, they must expect the ACCC to pursue remedies available to it under the Trade Practices Act. Consumer protection issues in telecommunications consistently ranked number one as the sectors most complained about to the ACCC Infocentre, with more than 4,000 complaints a year.”
The ACCC consistently received complaints about mobile premium services, primarily related to unsolicited services and billing, with about half alleging consumers had received premium services without agreement.
Other concerns included advertising practices; consumers not understanding contracts, including inadvertently signing up to a subscription service; and difficulties with unsubscribing and the complaints handling process.
“The ACCC is drawing a line in the sand – we’re saying to the poor performers, and there are many of them, mend your ways.”
A particular concern was the targeting of readers of youth magazines by mobile premium service providers. He warned the ACCC was prepared to take on publishers for running advertisements which they knew to be misleading or deceptive.
“Similarly, the ACCC is firmly of the view, that companies which advertising plans as ‘unlimited’ should be very cautious when using such terms. To avoid misleading consumers, any qualifications to ‘unlimited’ calls or SMS messages must be clearly stated and not so significant that they negate the overall impression of the ad,” says Samuel.
The ACCC also encouraged consumers to make sure they fully understood the terms and conditions of their contracts.