Monday, September 6, 2010
Telecommunications regulator tackles telcos over poor service
Telcos are threatened with binding standards as customers make four complaints every minute. And as the big gorilla of the industry, this applies particularly to Telstra
PHONE companies' slack service to customers is unacceptable and they need to "do much better".
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has warned it will impose binding standards for customer service unless the industry improves its self-regulatory code of conduct, The Australian reports.
Authority chairman Chris Chapman said the existing poor standard of customer service was unacceptable. Mr Chapman said telecom customers' "exasperation and frustration" was shown by the "unacceptable trend line" in consumer complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
The ombudsman has been receiving complaints about billing, faults and connections of landlines, mobile and internet services at the rate of 1850 issues every weekday - or nearly four per minute.
"The banks used to be like this, but have lifted their performance over the past 10 years," Mr Chapman said yesterday. "I'm saying to the telco industry, your time has come." The telcos' customer service "is unacceptable and they've got to do much better".
The telecommunications industry is reviewing its three-year-old consumer protection code, which will require ACMA's approval next year.
At the same time, Mr Chapman said, if ACMA chose to impose its standards on the industry, telcos could be penalised for poor service. "We will invoke a standard in the event the code didn't provide sufficient consumer safeguards," he said. The standard would "open up telcos to a whole raft of enforcement possibilities". There would be a dramatic increase and toughening of the sanctions that existed under the voluntary code, he said.
Mr Chapman condemned the industry for failing to enforce its existing code of conduct. And he called for a "paradigm shift" in the way telcos treat their customers. "At the moment there is a disconnect between the provisions of the code and the outcomes, and the outcomes aren't good enough," he said.
"The future communications environment is going to be even more complicated than in recent times. "The industry will have to be even more creative and clever in the way it looks after customers."
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network said yesterday the telcos' existing industry code was "not worth the paper it's written on". "We need a commitment from the industry that it is prepared to comply with the code and issue public reports on its performance," acting chief executive Teresa Corbin said.