TIO is improving its processes to respond when consumers complain about the disconnection of a service. In the past, reconnection requests may have been made by the TIO without necessarily consulting service providers, or considering all relevant information.
A new approach is being introduced to increase the consistency, transparency and fairness of our handling of these complaints. A consistent and informed approach is likely to result in fewer progressing to Conciliation or Investigation while also reducing the incidence of Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) compensation claims.
New referral notifications marked "Disconnected services"
From 1 August 2014, the TIO will send an urgent referral notification that specifically addresses disconnection issues. The subject title of these new urgent referral notification emails will include the words "Disconnected service".
The disconnected services urgent referral notification asks the service provider to assess the circumstances of the disconnection, reconnect services if relevant requirements in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code were not followed, and respond to the consumer and the TIO within two business days.
If the complaint involves a CSG-eligible service and proper notification has not been provided, we also ask the service provider to assess and pay any CSG compensation to the consumer.
Information to consumers
The TIO will inform consumers that we have asked the service provider to assess the circumstances leading to the disconnection and contact the consumer to confirm the disconnection or to reconnect the service.
If a provider's assessment does not result in reconnection of services
If a provider's assessment is that services should not be reconnected, and the consumer expresses dissatisfaction with that decision, the TIO will require providers to forward specific information showing that it complied with industry standards about service disconnection.
We will assess this information to decide if further action (such as conciliation) is required.
Complaints about other matters
If the consumer also has a complaint about other issues (for example, a billing dispute), the service provider will have the usual period of time to resolve this aspect of the complaint.
What the TCP Code and CSG Standard say
The TCP Code and CSG Standard have rules about when consumers can be disconnected from services, and the types of notification required.
The Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code (cl 6.7, 6.9 and 6.14) requires providers to notify consumers that services are to be disconnected, and not to undertake credit management on specified disputed amounts or while a payment arrangement is in place or being negotiated. If a consumer stops meeting their obligations under a payment arrangement, the service provider must take reasonable steps to contact them before re-starting credit management action.
The Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard (s 20 – Credit standing of customers) contains additional requirements for CSG-eligible services. These include notifying customers with eligible services that, before the service will be disconnected, they have 21 days to request review of a decision to disconnect or pay outstanding charges. Where these conditions are not met, a service provider may not be able to claim exemption from liability for complying with performance standards under the CSG Standard (due to the credit standing of a consumer).
If you have any questions, please contact the TIO's Industry Engagement team.