Consumer Safeguards Review
Part A: Consumer Redress and Complaints Handling
In July 2020, as part of the release of Part C of the Consumer Safeguards Review, the Minister of Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts confirmed our satisfactory response to Consumer Safeguards Review Part A: Consumer Redress and Complaints Handling:
‘The majority of the 32 recommendations were substantially achieved or reconsidered by the Government. The TIO has improved internal complaints processes and Board level governance arrangements. The TIO has also enhanced its engagement with ACMA, resulting in increased data sharing and reporting of systemic issues. This was formalised in the April 2020 ACMA-TIO Memorandum of Understanding.
The Government has decided not to go ahead with several recommendations relating to the authorisation and oversight of the TIO scheme (Recs 1.10, 3.1 and 3.2). Similarly, the TIO has decided not to implement Rec 1.8 (and in turn, Rec 1.9) which would have seen it transfer ownership of TIO Limited to the Directors of the TIO Board.’
The Chair of Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Limited (TIO Limited), Professor the Hon. Michael Lavarch AO, welcomed the update on Part A of the Consumer Safeguards Review:
‘I am pleased to see the closure of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s response to Part A of the Consumer Safeguards Review, with positive outcomes for all stakeholders. The reaction to this review from industry, consumer advocacy groups and the Government confirms the success and ongoing importance of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. We continue to focus on the ability of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to meet community expectations in the rapidly evolving communications sector.’
This concludes our work on Part A of the Consumer Safeguards Review, including the Board and Ombudsman’s response to the Department’s report and a six month implementation update. The Ombudsman worked with the Department to carefully consider and implement the suggested improvements in a way that strengthens the accessibility, effectiveness and fairness of the scheme. For example, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has:
- made amendments to the Constitution of TIO Limited, including removing the right for the largest and second largest members to each fill a director role on the Board: Update – Constitution amended at Annual General Meeting
- published a fact sheet to enhance transparency on decision making: Overview of Board and Member decision making
- strengthened systemic investigations and information sharing work, including through increased output of systemic publications.
Part B: Reliability of Services
In November 2018, the Department of Communications and the Arts began Consumer Safeguards Review Part B: Reliability of services. This part of the review considered how safeguards can ensure consumers have reliable telecommunications services, including reasonable timeframes for connections, fault repairs and appointments.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman made a submission to this part of the review in January 2019. The Department of Communications and the Arts released its final report and recommendations in December 2019.
In July 2020, the Minister of Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts provided the following update:
‘The report for Part B of the Review (reliability of telecommunications services) released on 17 December 2019 provides for the establishment of new forward-looking wholesale service standards and retail level commitments, while consolidating outdated regulation.
Since then, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications has been discussing implementation with industry, consumer groups and regulators, including interaction with the ACCC’s wholesale service standards inquiry.
With the recent enactment of the legislation to establish the new statutory infrastructure provider scheme for broadband as part of the new Universal Service Guarantee, a key mechanism to implement the Part B reforms, is now in place. Further consultation with stakeholders on the implementation of Part B is planned shortly.’
December 2019: Report on Part B: Reliability of Services to Minister for Communications, Cyber safety and the Arts
January 2019: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman submission to Part B: Reliability of Services
Part C: Choice and Fairness
In July 2020, the Department of Communications and the Arts commenced Consumer Safeguards Review Part C: Choice and fairness. This part of the review is ongoing and considers how safeguards can enable consumers to make informed choices and be treated fairly by their providers in areas such as customer service, contracts, billing, credit/debt management and switching providers.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman made a submission to this part of the review in October 2020.