Australian TELCOs to clean up act with “ground-breaking” regs

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has enabled new regulations on TELCOs aiming to give consumers “materially greater protection” against billing hikes and poor customer service.

The revised telecommunications consumer protection (TCP) code – which at a hefty 102 pages is “designed to ensure good service and fair outcomes for all consumers of telecommunications products in Australia” – will take effect on September 1.

The new measures will be monitored by Communications Compliance, alongside the ACMA.

Previous conduct from Australian TELCOs has, according to ACMA, cost the industry $1.5 billion AUD (£982m) per year due to consumers choosing the wrong plans, along with $113m (£74m) per year for writing off bad debts and $108m (£70m) dealing with complaints.

Following approximately 200,000 complaints over the past 12 months, the ACMA has taken action and is bringing in various changes designed to combat bill shock.

In future, customers will get messages when they hit 50, 85 and 100% of their monthly call and data allowance.

The majority of these problems were foreshadowed in ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer report last year.

The report claimed that bill shock was “both a cause of customer dissatisfaction and an effect of poor customer care” and cited one consumer who was given a bill of over $4,500 for a plan with a $129 cap.

The revised regulations interestingly takes note of the word ‘cap’ and bans companies from using it unless there is a limit with no option of exceeding – in other words, a ‘hard cap’.

“The code is a unique and ground-breaking document by world standards, bringing together best practice protections at all of the touch points in the TELCO customer lifecycle,” said Chris Chapman, ACMA chairman.

Yet the ACMA continues to bare its teeth, saying that if operators still don’t toe the line then tougher regulations can be enforced. Watch this space.

Does it surprise you that these regulations weren’t brought in years ago? Is bill shock still the biggest worry for consumers?

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PascalNderitu
13 Jul 2012, 10:56 a.m.

This has been long overdue. The ability has been latent and the operators have deliberately made sure that this features are suppressed for their own benefit. The only option of having such a feature was going on a pre-paid account but the tariff regime is such that one cannot exploit the full benefits that accompany a contract account. I cannot wait to see how the RSA operators will react to this.

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