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ACMA releases new telco complaints-handling rules for public comment

ACMA releases new telco complaints-handling rules for public comment

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is putting
in place new
complaints-handling rules
 to improve the experience of consumers
moving to the National Broadband Network.

The fast, wholesale local access broadband network is
being developed by NBN co
limited (nbn), a Government Business
Enterprise wholly owned by the Commonwealth of Australia. Minister for
Communications Mitch Fifield said that around 30,000 homes and businesses are migrating
to the network every week, and 3.6 million are already connected.

“While the overwhelming majority of users have a smooth
migration onto the NBN, we want to ensure the ACMA is a strong cop-on-the-beat,
armed to protect consumers from the handballing of complaints,” Minister
Fifield explained.

The changes include new consumer protections, greater
transparency and lower wholesale prices.

The new rules aim to stop the handballing of complaints
between telcos and the nbn, giving the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
better tools to help resolve complaints. The ACMA is also going to issue new
requirements for retailers to publicly release complaints statistics to help
consumers differentiate between retailers based on the quality of their
customer service.

The ACMA is seeking feedback on the draft new rules. The
deadline for submissions is 5 pm, 16 April 2018. Following consultation,
the ACMA intends these rules to be in place by June.

The new ACMA rules follow the announcement of a new monthly
customer experience progress
 report  to track service and quality
improvements on the network. The first
monthly customer experience progress report
showed 89 percent of NBN
installs are done ‘right first time’, 92 percent of installations are completed
on time, and 85 percent of faults are repaired on time.

The report also reveals that NBN’s new
pricing
has led to a jump in users enjoying speeds of 50 Mbps and faster;
and a dramatic reduction in network congestion – meaning more reliable
high-speed broadband, even during peak hours.

In December 2017, ACMA published
the results of an industry
information-gathering exercise
. They found that for the three months to 30
June 2017, 55.7 per cent of all network-related complaints were about service
quality (faults and speed). A further 44.3 per cent of network-related
complaints were about connection issues. On average, complaints about faults
took up to 19 calendar days to resolve, whereas complaints about connection
issues took up to 28 calendar days to resolve. it took up to 45 calendar days
for customers to have their old voice and data services moved across to the
network.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that telco customers deserve
to have their complaints dealt with quickly and effectively. As industry
co-regulation is proving ineffective in this area, rules are being put in place
so that the ACMA can act more quickly to deal with non-compliance.

Ms O’Loughlin said, “As we announced in December, the ACMA
is putting in place stronger rules to improve consumers’ experience in
migrating to the new Network. Today we are releasing the first of these new
rules for public comment. These cover telco complaints-handling processes and
monitoring.”

Unlike co-regulatory industry codes, the new rules will be
immediately and directly enforceable by the ACMA. In the event of a breach of
an industry standard by a telco, the ACMA can commence court proceedings
seeking remedies such as injunctions and civil penalties of up to A$250,000.
For breaching a service provider rule, the maximum civil penalty a court can
impose is A$10 million. There are no pecuniary penalties for breaching an
industry code.

The ACMA will release additional consumer protection and
conduct public consultation on them in the coming weeks. The new rules will:

  • specify the minimum information that telcos must provide about their network services before they sign consumers up 
  • specify minimum standards for telcos’ complaints-handling processes and a requirement for telcos to report their complaint numbers to the ACMA so that changes can be monitored
  • require telcos to ‘line test’ new services on the network to ensure that lines are working and that faults are identified early
    require consumers to be reconnected to legacy network services, if that fall-back is needed until their new network service is successfully connected.

“Together, this package will help consumers migrate
seamlessly to the new Network—from understanding their choices before they sign
up, through to connection and getting help when they need it,” Ms O’Loughlin
said.

The ACMA will also undertake further research into
modem quality, potentially leading to the introduction of technical standards,
or a modem performance rating scheme.

Featured image: Bidgee/
CC BY-SA
3.0 AU

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