The Australian Communications and Media Authority has directed Business Class Telecom (BCT), a Melbourne-based telecommunications provider, to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, after the ACMA found it had contravened consumer sales and customer transfers rules.
The ACMA’s investigation into BCT commenced in June 2014, drawing on earlier complaints made to the TIO, and found BCT had breached the TCP Code on multiple occasions in the period assessed.
The TCP Code sets out what a provider must do before transferring a customer’s service, including obtaining the customer’s consent. Consent, where the customer agrees to the transfer to the new provider, can be obtained only after the new provider has given sufficient information to allow the customer to make an informed choice.
‘It is essential that consumers be provided with clear and accurate information to allow informed consent,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘Providers are on notice that poor customer transfer practices will not be tolerated.’
The ACMA investigation involved a comprehensive assessment of how BCT communicated with prospective customers. Among other breaches, the ACMA’s investigation found that BCT failed to ensure that:
- it had taken reasonable steps to gain consent on eight occasions
- the consumer was informed of the identity of the gaining supplier before initiating the transfer, again on eight occasions
- the consumer was made aware that they may have to pay a penalty or cancellation fee to their existing supplier on 27 occasions.
BCT has undertaken a number of changes to its operations since the contraventions occurred. The ACMA will look at the effects of these changes as part of its ongoing monitoring of customer sales and transfer practices.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0434 567 391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media release 8/2015 - 17 February
Unauthorised transfer – what a consumer should do
If a consumer has been transferred to another provider without authorisation, the consumer should first contact that provider and lodge a complaint. The TCP Code requires providers to have a complaints handling process that is accessible, transparent and free of charge.
If a consumer is not satisfied with the way a provider has dealt with their complaint, the consumer may contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). The TIO scheme is a dispute resolution scheme for residential and small business customers established to provide free, independent resolution of complaints.
Further information about unauthorised transfers is available here.
The ACMA has been undertaking a multi-provider review of carriage service provider compliance with the transfer provisions of the TCP Code.
As part of the review, the ACMA examined records provided by BCT. This included assessing 27 authorisation recordings from the period 9 October to 4 December 2013 against the requirements of chapters 4 and 7 of the TCP Code. Those chapters deal with pre-sale information and customer transfer.
The ACMA’s powers
Where the ACMA finds a breach of the TCP Code, it can:
- agree with the telecommunications provider on steps the provider will take to remedy the breach or improve compliance
- give a formal warning, or
- give a direction to comply with the Code.
The ACMA is not able to impose a pecuniary penalty on the telecommunications provider for such breaches. However, if a telecommunications provider, which has been given a direction, breaches that direction (for example, by contravening the TCP Code again), the ACMA can commence proceedings in the Federal Court seeking a pecuniary penalty.
Since the TCP Code was registered in September 2012, the ACMA has:
- issued 152 formal warnings
- given 25 directions to comply.