The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is closely monitoring a practice by some telemarketers that can mislead consumers into transferring their services to a new service provider, TIO Talks reports today.
Consumers have complained to the Ombudsman about telemarketers who represent themselves as acting on behalf of a large provider. The consumers say they unwittingly transfer their services to a company that in some cases they had never heard of.
“Such complaints, if proved, indicate that the provider may not be complying with legislation and industry codes of best practice in providing full and correct information before a transfer,” Ombudsman Simon Cohen said.
“Properly informed consent at the outset is critical. Consumers should know who they are contracting with for their telephone or internet service,” Mr Cohen said.
In addition to dealing with individual complaints, the TIO’s systemic investigations team has worked with service providers to amend telemarketing scripts, making sure that they are accurate and comply with industry codes of practice and relevant laws. The TIO has also worked with providers to improve verification procedures before a transfer is completed.
Other issues highlighted in TIO Talks include:
- New complaints about telephone and internet services stabilised in the first quarter of 2011‑12. The TIO received 51,196 new complaints between 1 July and 30 September 2011, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to the previous quarter. However, complaints were 22 per cent higher than at the same time last year.
- The increased use of mobile services continued to be reflected in the TIO’s complaint statistics with 33,746 new complaints, 7.3 per cent more than in the previous quarter.
- Financial hardship resulting from circumstances including unexpectedly high bills may mean a consumer cannot pay their bills, or pay them on time. TIO Talks highlightssome of the measures needed to prevent unaffordable debt, and to identify and deal fairly with consumers who are in hardship.
Avoiding unwelcome surprises this festive season – TIO tips
- Smart phones and other new gadgets may be functional and attractive, but can sometimes come with hidden costs. Ask lots of questions about plans and charges – what features are included in the monthly bills, what is not included and how much you have to pay for these extras. Shop around, and make sure you’re making an informed decision before buying a new phone, especially for your children.
- If you plan on calling friends or family overseas, ask your provider about their international call rates from your mobile or landline. Remember that some mobile phone caps may not include international calls. Your provider will generally have that information on their website.
- Overseas roaming costs can be hefty. To avoid surprises when returning home, you can ask your provider to deactivate roaming from your service, buy a SIM card in the country you are visiting or use the internet on your mobile phone sparingly. Monitor your usage as much as you can, and if you don’t know how to, contact your provider.
- A picture message can be a cute greeting on Christmas or New Years Eve, but before sending one to all your contacts, remember that they are more expensive than SMS and may not be included in your cap. Posting the photo in a place where it can be accessed by family and friends may be a cheaper option. You may be able to send the link via SMS.
- If you know that Christmas expenses will affect your ability to pay your phone bill, ring your provider in advance to ask for an extension or payment plan. A call may save you going through a disconnection, suspension or a credit listing.
For further information, please phone the TIO’s Communications Manager, Mirjana Jovetic, on (03) 8600 8378.