The ACMA

Reconnecting the customer

Telecommunications consumer protection code

Telco customer service: some things to celebrate & some to watch out for

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Reconnecting the Customer —Tracking consumer outcomes: 2016 update (RTC2), released today, reveals some important customer service improvements since the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code (the TCP Code) took effect in 2012.

Bright spots include:

  • the incidence of consumers receiving unexpectedly high bills has fallen from 33 per cent to 19 per cent since 2013 for post-paid mobile phones, and from 26 per cent to 10 per cent over the same period for product bundles
  • for those unexpectedly high bills, the extra amount consumers have to pay has reduced from $94 to $60
  • more consumers are monitoring their expenditure with SMS alerts and apps: SMS alerts are up from 67 per cent in 2013 to 78 per cent and use of apps is up from 31 per cent to 46 per cent for post-paid mobiles over the same period
  • overall incidence of making a complaint has decreased from 36 per cent to 31 per cent in the last three years, with a significant decrease in complaints related to mobile phone services.

‘In good news for consumers, fewer are experiencing unexpectedly high bills, and they are making better use of spend management tools to monitor and track their expenditure,’ said acting ACMA Chairman, Richard Bean. ‘They have a clearer understanding about the cost of their communications services, and are better able to plan and budget accordingly.

‘Some perennial customer service issues remain, however, and service hotspots are emerging as consumers engage with new technologies and services. For example, consumers’ experience of complaint resolution rates and timeframes for resolving complaints remains largely unchanged over the past three years,’ Richard Bean said.

Other customer service hotspots include:

  • consumer problems with internet streaming due to slow or poor connections
  • some consumers are caught out using their mobile data allowance when they thought they were using their home Wi-Fi connection (reported by 15 per cent of customers who had received an unexpectedly high bill).

In a separate study looking at consumer migration to new technologies, another bright spot for telco consumers is that a big majority understand how to connect to the national broadband network, with 82 per cent finding it easy or not difficult to connect.

Both residents and businesses reported that costs of the NBN were less than or comparable to those paid prior to connecting, although less than a third of residential and business customers change their service providers when connecting to the NBN.

‘The ACMA’s research shows that as consumers adopt new technologies and they become mainstream, we see consumer service expectations change,’ Richard Bean added. ‘These changing expectations align with recent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaints data highlighting a 35 per cent increase in new complaints about internet services over the last financial year.’

This research is informing the ACMA’s targeted compliance and education priorities for 2017. A particular compliance priority will be to ensure Retail Service Providers are adhering to their requirements under the TCP Code as more customers migrate to the NBN.

It will also inform potential enhancements to the TCP Code when it is reviewed later in 2017 and will assist the ACMA in working with the telco industry to ensure continuous improvement of customer care as the communications service environment continues to evolve.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or media@acma.gov.au.

Media release 46/2016 - 20 December

Backgrounder

Reconnecting the Customer—Tracking consumer outcomes: 2016 update (RTC2)

This is the third piece of research to track the effectiveness of changes out of the ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer inquiry, following on from the original Reconnecting the Customer—Tracking consumer outcomes (RTC1) published in April 2014 and Spend management tools and alerts (Spend management) published in September 2015.

The research shows that there have been ongoing improvements in many aspects of telecommunications services since the introduction of the TCP Code in 2012:

  • Consumers are better able to manage their expenditure on communications services in 2016 with fewer have unexpectedly high bills; reductions in the size of higher bills and increases in the number of consumers monitoring expenditure with SMS alerts and apps.
  • Consumers are better informed about the nature and cost of the services they choose finding it easier to evaluate or compare offers.
  • There have been some positive shifts in customer care practices, but there is still room to improve customer service and complaints-handling.
  • Other issues being reported in RTC2 research include concerns with internet streaming due to slow or poor connections; unexpectedly high bills for use of data allowances when a consumer thought they were using their device over Wi-Fi; and unauthorised billed charges for mobile phone apps or services.

Migrating to the NBN: The experience of Australian consumers in 2016 (NBN migration)

In a separate study, the ACMA explored the experience of residential consumers and small to medium businesses before, during and after migration to the NBN. During the period of the research (November 2015 to May 2016), connections to the NBN mostly used fibre to the premises (FTTP) technology.

The consumer migration research also found:

  • Consumers were generally excited by the prospect of connecting to the NBN, with three-quarters of residents connecting to the NBN within three months of it becoming available (eight in 10 businesses within six months).
  • Most residents (82 per cent) found it either easy or not difficult to connect to the NBN, while more than half (60 per cent) of businesses reported this to be the case, noting that there were more complex connection requirements for many businesses.
  • While services connected over the NBN met the expectations of a majority of consumers, a significant minority of consumers and businesses continue to report ongoing service issues: 17 per cent of residential consumers (and 19 per cent of businesses) expressed concerns about internet reliability and they reported being confused about the role of retail service providers in the connection process.

Last updated: 20 December 2016

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