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Consumer Panel members meet virtually

TIO Consumer Panel scrutinises accessibility of telco services

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman held its third Consumer Panel meeting on Wednesday 3 March 2021.

One of the issues high on the agenda was accessibility of telco services. Panel members highlighted examples of consumers facing accessibility issues, such as the unique problems for people who are blind or vision impaired.

The Panel heard that consumers with vision impairment often require extra assistance when troubleshooting modems, as telcos may rely on visual cues such as flashing lights to diagnose problems.

Another common theme raised was the importance of being able to contact a telco by phone. One panel member observed that for some older consumers and for those with communication difficulties, only being able to access support online rather than over the phone hinders their independence – and in some instance, may not be possible.

Panel members also spoke the challenges when navigating complex products and language in telco contracts, and long wait times when consumers are contacting their telco.

Diane Hayes from Financial Counsellors Association of Western Australia provided an overview of recent research by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) into telco financial hardship programs. The qualitative research focused on financial hardship through the lens of financial counsellors.

The TIOs Strategy and Regulatory Affairs Lead Vicky Finn said the Consumer Panel is “finding a good rhythm”, operating through the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“The meetings are proving to be a valuable platform for sharing diverse consumer experiences and insights. We are using these conversations to support the work of the TIO in resolving complaints between consumers and their telecommunications provider,” Vicky said.

“The panel is working cohesively and it’s a really great avenue for sharing information across different consumer groups.”

The Consumer Panel will meet again in July 2021.