Consumer Safeguards Review paves way for improvements

Thursday, 19 December, 2019

Consumer Safeguards Review paves way for improvements

The second report in a three-part Consumer Safeguards Review has been released as part of the federal government’s plan to modernise telecommunication service delivery.

Fourteen recommendations were made in a bid to improve the reliability of telecommunication services at wholesale, retail and consumer levels.

According to the government, the suggested framework will: “provide for wholesale level regulation of connections, repairs and appointment keeping timeframes”; ensure retail level requirements for transparency around retail service commitments and service performance; “allow further consideration of well targeted and suitable arrangements to maximise connectivity for medically vulnerable consumers”; and “address existing reliability safeguards of limited and declining relevance”.

The Communications Alliance welcomed the report, with the industry body’s CEO, John Stanton, believing it “seeks to strike a balance between consumer protection and consumer benefit through competition, innovation and increased value” and “reflects elements of the industry feedback on the initial Departmental recommendations and consultation undertaken ... during the past year”.

“I believe it paves the way for providers to make continuity commitments in ways that support consumer choice and preferences, are appropriate to providers’ business models and promote competitive differentiation.

“The move away from some elements of the initial Part B proposals removes some potentially anticompetitive outcomes, which had caused concern within industry and could have stifled innovation and created increased costs for consumers,” Stanton said.

The Communications Alliance is currently reviewing the report’s recommendations but, so far, supports its approach “including that outdated regulation should be removed, implementation should actively avoid the risk of duplicative regulation, and competition will bring the most benefit to consumers”, according to Stanton.

Current consumer safeguards are over 20 years old, with most related to fixed line voice services and only applying to Telstra, the government said. The dominant service provider at the time, Telstra’s copper network used to provide all consumers with fixed line services, the government added.

The report’s recommendations are designed to reflect the introduction of broadband services, as well as significant changes in market structure and consumer expectations.

The final stage of the review will focus on choice and fairness in the retail relationship between the customer and provider, with the government to consult on this in early 2020.

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