24 October 2009

Reform needed to protect customers in the telecommunications industry

Date: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 14:07:43 +0800
Subject: Reform needed to protect customers in the telecommunications industry
From: Justin Lee
To: Nick Minchin
Cc: Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Mathias Cormann, Dennis Jensen

Hi Nick,

If Senator Conroy wants to reform the telecommunications industry, he should begin by introducing legislation that compels carriers to meet their basic service obligations, rather than leaving it to working Mums and Dads to ensure that they are not being robbed by stealth.

As we all know, the quality of the customer service (or lack thereof) provided by our telecommunications carriers is appalling, and this is due to the inadequate protection available to ordinary customers who do not have any practical recourse when the carrier fails to meet its basic service obligations. Carriers do not have any incentive to provide customer service at a level of quality that any customer would consider fair and reasonable.

My experience with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has been that it is slow, bureaucratic and places an unfair burden on the customer when the carrier has clearly failed to meet its basic service obligations. No customer should have to go through a lengthy dispute arbitration process every time they are incorrectly billed. I was continually billed with hefty, unexplained charges by Optus and each time I raised a complaint, the billing errors became worse. To make matters worse, they refused to disclose details of the services that were incurring data charges for reasons of "privacy". They refused to even confirm that none of the data charges on a bill were for services that I was not using. I was informed that there was no process I could go through to access details of my data charges.

We should have no illusions about the current regime under which our telecommunications carriers operate. Signing up to a phone service when the carrier is allowed to withhold billing information is like handing them a blank cheque.


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