Australian internet providers and telcos are set to be “encouraged” by the government to set up onshore call centres to handle escalated complaints.
The recommendation is one of 32 made in Part A of the government’s consumer safeguards review, which was published today.
The practicality and feasibility of the recommendations will be the subject of several months of consultation now between government and industry.
Aside from a major shake-up of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), Part A calls on telcos and internet providers to make their complaints handling processes much simpler.
This includes by hosting “onshore customer service and complaint handling centres” for certain types of complaints - meaning those providers maintaining offshore contact centres could face increased scrutiny.
“Providers should be encouraged to establish and utilise staff in onshore call centres, particularly when dealing with complex complaints, complaints requiring liaison of other areas within a company, and/or interrogation of complex billing and legacy support systems,” the review recommends.
The review cited “anecdotal evidence from stakeholder interviews” as proof of the need to move against offshore contact centres.
“[Feedback] suggested providers who located their escalated complaints handling team onshore had greater success at resolving complaints in a timely fashion, often avoiding the need for complaints to be escalated further to the TIO,” the review stated.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network’s (ACCAN) director of policy Una Lawrence welcomed the scrutiny of offshore operations.
“It is good to see the government acknowledge that overseas call centres can present real difficulties for telco consumers,” Lawrence said.
“We hope the industry will take up the report’s recommendation encouraging the establishment of more onshore centres.”
In addition, the government wants providers to make it clear how to lodge complaints.
Industry would have to “produce and publish a compliant complaints handling process (CHP) prominently on their website, and include a ‘one-click’ link from their website landing page to the CHP”.
Contact details and telephone opening hours would need to be clearly stated, with the maximum cost being that of a local call.=
The government also wants to see “specific provisions to accommodate the special needs of urgent complaints (e.g. from medically vulnerable consumers), complaints made by consumers experiencing financial hardship, and complaints made by small businesses where delays in resolution are detrimental to the customer's business.”