Refer to A3 table – Summary of proposed solutions – column 2
Objective: Marketing and advertising practices need to be improved by the introduction of clear and enforceable rules that apply to all providers’ advertising practices and that:* prohibit the use of terms (and any similar terms) that are known to be confusing for consumers (eg. terms such as ‘cap’ when the advertised amount is the minimum monthly payment, not the maximum),* ensure that representations, in particular about network coverage and broadband speeds, can be substantiated, and* provide a reasonable basis for comparison, particularly for representations about prices for products that operate on the basis of a minimum spend ‘plan’ arrangement.Proposal for achieving the objective: It is proposed that service providers be prohibited from using terms (and similar terms) in advertising that are known to confuse consumers and be required to only make representations, particularly in relation to broadband speed and network coverage, if those representations can be substantiated. Further, the ACMA proposes that service providers be required to disclose in advertisements for products that are not subject to a hard cap or shaping of data use, either:* an effective unit pricing rate and a stated unit pricing rate imposed for each separate component (that is, voice calls, text messages or data) within the included value of a plan and when that included value is exceeded; or* the volume of calls, text messages or megabytes a consumer would receive within the included value of a plan and when that included value has been exceeded. The volume would be based on an agreed common unit, such as the cost of a minute call (including flag fall) during standard peak times or the cost of downloading one megabyte during peak times.The comparable pricing rate both within and outside of the included value of a plan should also be disclosed on bills to facilitate consumers’ understanding of billing arrangements.
Objective: Consumers should be provided with clear, accurate and comparable information about the key features of products and aspects of a service before entering into a contract.Proposal for achieving the objective: The ACMA proposes that service providers be required to provide a critical information disclosure summary to consumers before a sale that:* Gives consumers a summary of critical information about their product (eg. term of the contract, maximum amount payable for early termination, minimum monthly payment),Is available for different types of products and provides critical information about those products (eg. voice call costs, SMS costs, data use costs, exclusions), and* Provides consumers with non-product specific information (eg. customer service contact details, access to spend management tools, cooling off periods, access to IDR and EDR).
Objective: Introduce transparency about the relative quality of customer care, particularly in relation to service providers’ performance in resolving matters in a timely way and improved transparency and accountability about the commitments of service providers to a common set of service standards, through a customer service charter.Proposal for achieving the objective: It is proposed that service providers that have more than 30,000 (residential/small business) customers be required to report to the ACMA at regular intervals on:Customer service performance(1) total number of contacts made by existing customers, and(2) number of repeat contacts made by the same customer within a 45 day period, Complaints-handling performance(3) Total number of complaints received by a CSP, and(4) Total number of the CSP’s residential and small business customers.Service providers are also encouraged to consider developing and publishing customer service charters which contain commitments to a common set of service standards and consequences (if any) for failure to deliver on those commitments. Service standards to be included in a charter might include matters such as the channels through which a customer can contact their provider, what a customer could expect when making an enquiry and the contact details of the TIO.
Objective: Consumers should be equipped with the tools they need to manage their telecommunications expenditure, particularly by being able to monitor the accumulation of charges in a plan during a billing period. Requiring providers to include comparative pricing rate both within and outside of a plan on bills should also improve consumers understanding of charging arrangements and their bills.Proposal for achieving the objective: It is proposed that service providers be required to offer measures or tools that allow customers to monitor in real time the accumulation of charges during a billing period. For products not subject to a hard cap or shaping, this should include:(1) an equivalent platform based notification (ie. SMS for phone; email for Internet) that alerts consumers at either consumer nominated or provider specified expenditure/usage points (eg. 80%),(2) a consumer nominated expenditure/usage point that cannot be exceeded without a consumer’s express consent and which includes notification at a particular expenditure/usage point, and(3) notification must include details about the expenditure/usage point reached, the consequences of any limitations and unavoidable exclusions.
Objective: Internal complaints-handling standards that meet ‘best practice’ are to be implemented by all service providers.Proposal for achieving the objective: It is proposed that service providers be required to implement complaints-handling procedures that:* Adopt the definition of ‘complaint’ as set out in the Australian Standard for Complaints-handling, AS ISO 100002-2006 (Australian Standard),* Comply with the guiding principles set out in the Australian Standard in relation to: visibility, accessibility, responsiveness, objectivity, charging, confidentiality, being consumer focused, accountability and continuous improvement.* Establish minimum benchmark standards in relation to: timeliness in dealing with complaints, documenting procedures and the collection, analysis and reporting of complaints information.
Objective: To ensure that the TIO meets best practice standards for external dispute resolution schemes and that the consumer protection standards within the sector are enhanced.Proposal for achieving the objective: The ACMA recommends that the regulatory framework and/or governance framework of the TIO be amended to better align the scheme with best practice for external dispute resolution schemes by creating a unitary governance model with one overseeing body. The overseeing body would be responsible for:(a) appointing the Ombudsman,(b) dealing with complaints about the TIO scheme,(c) monitoring and reporting on trends and issues arising from complaints analysis,(d) monitoring the reporting of systemic issues to regulators, and(e) monitoring the TIO’s capacity to manage caseloads.Membership of the overseeing body should comprise equal numbers of consumer and industry representatives and an independent chair.It is also proposed that consideration be given to amending the legislation to prohibit service providers that are not members of the TIO scheme from operating within the telecommunications sector. The TIO’s process for identifying and reporting on systemic issues should also be improved. These matters could be addressed by legislative amendment that required the external dispute resolution scheme in the telecommunications sector to be approved by the ACMA.The recommendations about the TIO in this report have been made in the context of a broader review of the TIO scheme being conducted by the Department of Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy. This review complements the inquiry by examining the TIO scheme in the context of the overall consumer protection regulatory framework within the telecommunications sector.
ACMA Reconnect the Customer briefing on draft report
ACMA public inquiry<br />Release of draft inquiry report<br />
Briefing<br />Purpose of draft report<br />Background for Reconnecting the Customer<br />Evidence and research collected<br />Key findings<br />Proposed solutions<br />Future challenges<br />Briefing pack<br />Next steps<br />
Purpose of draft report<br />Provide the ACMA’s draft findings regarding:<br />Problems – Are there systemic problems with how the Australian telecommunications sector deals with its customers?<br />Causes – If there are problems, what are the causes?<br />Solutions – What are the potential solutions?<br />Future issues – what is best strategy for addressing customer care issues in converging communications environment?<br />Invite submissions and comments<br />
Background<br />Sustained increase in TIO complaints<br />Increasingly industry complexity<br />Prepare for NBN era<br />
Evidence and research<br />135 submissions in response to consultation paper and five public hearings in metropolitan and regional areas <br />Industry data<br />Research about:<br />Consumer experience of customer care <br />Behaviouraleconomics and consumer decision-making<br />Performance metrics<br />Best practice external dispute resolution<br />3G users’ experience<br />
Key findings<br />Advertising & marketing practices confuse consumers about products, especially when comparing value of different plans<br />Many consumers lack sufficient info about products prior to entering contract – contributes to problems such as bill shock<br />No transparency for consumers about relative performance of CSPs regarding customer care quality<br />Consumer difficulty understanding and monitoring charges contributes to bill shock<br />Appropriate consumer safeguards regarding clear and enforceable rules about CSP complaint-handling are lacking<br />TIO scheme not meeting best practice in some areas<br />
Approach to solutions<br />Two key drivers of complaints:<br />Quality of information provided in pre-sale marketing and advertising, and pre-contract phases of product life-cycle<br />Unexpectedly high bills (‘bill shock’)<br />Two key drivers of customer satisfaction:<br />Timely resolution of issues<br />Effective handling of complaints<br />
Proposal 1: Improved advertising practices <br />Objective: Improve marketing and advertising practices by introduction of clear and enforceable rules that apply to all providers. <br />Proposal to achieve objective:<br />Prohibit use of terms known to be confusing for consumers<br />Require providers to publish either<br />an effective unit pricing rate and stated unit pricing rate, or<br />volume of calls, text messages or megabytes a consumer would receive inside and outside included value of plan<br />
Proposal 2: Improved product disclosure <br />Objective: Provide consumers with clear, accurate and comparable information about the key features of products and aspects of a service before entering into a contract.<br />Proposal for achieving objective: Provide consumers with critical information disclosure summary before sale that: <br />summarises critical product information (e.g. term of the contract, exit fees, minimum monthly payment)<br />is available for different types of product<br />Includes non-product specific information (e.g. contact details, how to access complaint processes, consumer tools, etc).<br />
Proposal 3: Performance reporting & customer service charters <br />Objective:Introduce transparency about the relative quality of customer care, especially regarding timeliness.<br />Proposal for achieving objective: <br />Providers with >30,000 res. and small bus. customers publish:<br />total contacts made by existing customers<br />number of repeat contacts made by the same customer within a 45 day period <br />total complaints received<br />total number of residential and small business customers.<br />Providers encouraged to publish customer service charters.<br />
Proposal 4: Expenditure management tools <br />Objective: Equip consumers with the tools to manage their telecommunications expenditure.<br />Proposal for achieving objective: Providers required to offer tools that allow customers to monitor accumulation of charges during a billing period, in real time.<br />For plans with no hard cap or shaping this should provide:<br />equivalent platform-based notification (eg. SMS for phone)<br />consumer-nominated expenditure/usage notification point<br />notification which includes consequences of limitations and unavoidable exclusions.<br />
Proposal 5: Internal complaints-handling <br />Objective: Internal complaints-handling standards that meet ‘best practice’ to be implemented by all service providers.<br />Proposal for achieving objective: Providers required to:<br />adopt definition of complaint from AS ISO 100002-2006<br />comply with principles in AS ISO 100002-2006<br />establish minimum standards for:<br />timeliness in complaints-handling<br />documentation of complaints procedures<br />analysis and reporting of complaints data.<br />
Proposal 6: Changes to TIO scheme<br />Objective: Ensure TIO meets best practice standards for EDR schemes, and consumer protection standards within the sector are enhanced.<br />Proposal for achieving the objective (in context of broader TIO review by DBCDE):<br />TIO regulatory framework and/or governance framework amended to create a unitary governance model<br />consider legislative change to prohibit providers that are not TIO members from operating within sector<br />improve TIO process for dealing with systemic issues.<br />
Future challenges – the ‘next chapter’<br />Proposals intended to: <br />address current problems <br />provide consumer safeguards against future challenges.<br />Final report will specifically address future challenges.<br />Essential to maintain momentum created by Reconnecting the Customer<br />
Briefing pack documents<br />Draft report<br />Summary of proposed solutions (table)<br />Executive summaries of supporting research<br />Fast facts consumer booklet<br />Overview and summary of recommendations<br />
Next steps<br />Further dialogue with industry and consumers<br />Consider submissions<br />Consultation period ends on Friday 15 July 2011<br />Final report expected late August 2011<br />Work program to implement solutions will commence immediately following release of report<br />