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TIO supports proposed Framework for combating scams

In 2023, Australians lost over $470 million to scammers, with over 300,000 scams reported to the ACCC Scamwatch. It’s never been more important to ensure that Australian consumers are protected from scammers.

Published in early February, the TIO’s submission to Treasury and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications, and the Arts (DITRDCA) supports the introduction of a mandatory scams Framework and sector specific codes for responding to scams.

The TIO welcomes strengthening and consolidating rules to prevent scams in the telco industry. This benefits consumers and provides clarity to telcos on the actions they need to take to reduce impacts on consumers. 

Currently, the level of protection offered to consumers can vary depending on who their telco provider is. Having mandatory rules that apply to all of industry would benefit consumers with increased protections, regardless of which telco provider they choose to enter into a contract with. 

The TIO also supports the proposal to leverage existing external dispute resolution (EDR) schemes, such as the TIO, to handle complaints about breaches under the Framework.

Consumers regularly contact the TIO with complaints about scams and fraud, such as inadequate telco security measures, privacy breaches and unauthorised SIM swaps. The proposed Framework would provide the TIO with the ability to handle more complaints about scams, so that consumers are getting the help they need.

At present, it’s not always obvious what recourse consumers may have available to them if they’re victims of a scam. Consumers may need to lodge complaints with multiple EDR schemes to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome that reflects all the ways they may have been impacted by a scammer.

Clearer obligations and referral processes between EDR bodies are needed to ensure consumers are receiving the most efficient and effective complaint resolution services across the entire EDR industry. 
This would simplify the process of awarding compensation and ensuring consumers receive consistent outcomes no matter which EDR scheme handles their complaint.

In addition, such obligations would also help industry to resolve disputes sooner and through internal dispute resolution methods.  

Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert supports an industry code that has a ‘no wrong door’ approach.

“We need to ensure that consumers are not referred back and forth between different external dispute resolution schemes, particularly where the details of the complaint mean it could be handled by more than one EDR scheme,” she said.

“Being scammed can be an invasive and traumatic experience for consumers. When people have to tell their story multiple times, this can hinder rather than help them. Having referral processes between schemes and clearer regulatory obligations will help us resolve complaints quickly and effectively.”