ACMA consulting on telco complaint handling rules

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 15 March, 2018

ACMA consulting on telco complaint handling rules

The ACMA has introduced the first of its proposed new complaint handling rules aimed at improving the experience of customers moving to the nbn.

The regulator has released for public comment the proposed Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018 and the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints) Record-Keeping Rules.

The complaints handling standard would require all telecommunications service providers serving consumers and small businesses to comply with rules specifying how complaints must be managed.

These would include a requirement that providers make complaint handling processes available to consumers as soon as practicable after the consumer informs the operator they wish to make a complaint and advise consumers of any delay in proposed time frames for managing a complaint as soon as possible.

The new standard would also specify five-working-day deadlines for informing consumers about alternative dispute resolution or internal complaint escalation processes if they complain about response times, as well as informing customers of a decision not to deal with a complaint due to a determination that the complaint is frivolous, vexatious or out of the provider’s hands.

Meanwhile, the proposed record-keeping rules would require providers to report complaints data to ACMA on a quarterly basis, compiled from records operators are already required to keep under the current Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code.

Telcos would be required to report information including the total number of complaints, the proportion resolved at first contact and the proportion escalated to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

For nbn services specifically, telcos would be required to report the number of connection-, fault- and speed-related complaints.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the regulator is aiming to have the new rules in place by June. The public consultation period will run until 16 April.

“Telco customers deserve to have their complaints dealt with quickly and effectively. As industry co-regulation is proving ineffective in this area, we will put in place rules so that the ACMA can act more quickly to deal with non-compliance,” she said.

ACMA has meanwhile released a snapshot of early data from its research into the experience of residential households before, during and after their migration to the nbn.

The snapshot, based on responses from 1881 households across Australia, found that 50% of respondents recalled receiving information from nbn co or retail service providers about how to connect to the nbn prior to making the switch. Around three-quarters of these found this information to be useful.

Four in five respondents agreed that they understood what was included in their nbn plan before subscribing, 79% knew they had to move their home phone line to the nbn and 75% understood the steps in connecting.

But just three in five knew their home phone would not work in the event of a power outage without battery backup, only around half knew what speed their household needed before connecting and only a similar portion agreed it was easy to compare nbn plans from different providers.

The survey found that the most important factor considered when choosing a plan or provider was cost (named by 86% of respondents), followed by keeping their home phone number (82%), confidence in faults being fixed (80%), speed of connection (79%) and the amount of data included in the plan (68%).

Around three in 10 households have meanwhile made a complaint to their current or previous nbn service provider since connecting. Of these, 24% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the complaints handling process, with the most commonly cited reason being the time it took to fix the problem or take action.

Meanwhile, one in three households moved onto the nbn in the past 12 months were temporarily left without a home phone or internet connection. While the majority had their services restored within seven days, with one in five having connection returned in 24 hours, around 10% were still waiting after a month.

Image courtesy ACMA.

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