Telcos Failing Consumers, Warns Regulator

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Telecommunications providers are failing to provide proper consumer protection, the Australian Communications and Media Authority said today.
The warning comes as the ACMA’s continues its ‘Reconnecting the Customer’ inquiry into how the industry deals with its customers.

In particular, the body has earmarked some of the major consumer bug bears which includes the complexity involved in making a complaint, a provider’s over complex IT system, pricing structures, and the marketing messages being communicated as well as major consumer concerns which include being given false information on products sold.

Among the top four complaints cited by the report were “long wait times and multiple transfers between customer service staff” and “undertakings not actioned or service providers failing to deliver on commitments.”

The Australian consumer complaints website notgoodenough.org reveals a litany of consumer complaints about some of the major telecoms players such as ‘I was lied to by Telstra dealer’ and ‘Optus or Telstra…who is the worst.’

The effectiveness of current regulatory framework has also been called into question including the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code and the Telecommunications Ombudsman.

 

‘The report captures some of the themes emerging from the public inquiry, such as the different perspectives held by consumers and providers on what constitutes effective customer service and the problems associated with identifying and addressing complaints,’ said Chris Chapman, ACMA Chairman.

These issues are a symptom of the increase in the level of customer contacts with service providers as companies increase their offering and widen their products base to include broadband internet.

The ACMA has received more than 130 written submissions and 32 verbal submissions so far, they said.

“The poor complaint handling of the industry is legendary,” Chapman admitted at the CommsDay Summit held earlier this year.

Consumer consultation and focus groups have also been held in major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

A full set of recommendations to the issues identified by the inquiry, is set to be released in early 2011.

Last financial year saw a 118 percent hike in complaints to the the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

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