Minding and bridging the gaps
On Tuesday 9 October 2012, Ombudsman Simon Cohen spoke to the CommsDay Summit in Melbourne about the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code. The presentation ‘Minding and Bridging the Gaps’ provided some of the TIO’s views about the new Code.
Mr Cohen explained the TIO’s role in receiving, investigating and resolving complaints about Code-related matters, and the work undertaken to provide information to TIO members about Code obligations.
The presentation highlighted elements in the Code, including those that require simpler and comparable information to be provided to consumers, usage notifications and improved complaint handling, as likely to reduce consumer detriment and the causes of TIO complaints.
Mr Cohen also drew attention to some of the gaps that the new Code may not address, including:
- a number of the new protections will not apply to pre-paid mobile services
- the protections for consumers using mobile services prior to suspension or disconnection are less than those provided for standard telephone services under the Customer Service Guarantee Standard
- new rules for spend notifications do not commence for 1-2 years, don’t apply to small business and don’t acknowledge responsibilities under the previous Code in the meantime
- arrangements to assist consumers in financial hardship do not detail best practice.
Mr Cohen gave credit to the telecommunications industry for taking steps to already address some of these and other gaps. However, he challenged the industry not to regard the new Code as a gold standard, but instead as a contemporary basic or minimum standard of practice.
Mr Cohen also highlighted the challenge for the TIO to strike the right balance, in playing its role in Code implementation, to recognise the substantial and ongoing investment by industry to implement the new Code, while ensuring that consumer disputes which fall into the gaps are dealt with fairly, transparently and consistently.