Telcos should compensate complainers, says watchdog

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Telcos should compensate complainers, says watchdog

ACCAN calls on Conroy to ‘threaten’ industry with further reform.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) wants telcos to pay consumers $50 if their complaint of poor customer service is proven valid.

"We think it's only fair that a $50 compensation payment should apply to consumers affected by poor customer service," said CEO of the action network Allan Asher.

Asher said the payment would be an incentive for telcos to "get it right in the first instance" and said it would recognise "the real costs of giving customers the run around".

His comments came after the release of the latest Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman annual report Friday, which showed no sign of a decrease in the number of telecommunications complaints in the past year.

Complaints rose by 54 percent. And for the first time, more people complained about their mobile phone service than their landlines.

Asher noted “dramatic increases” in complaints with billing, customer service and credit management. He said "about half of the complaints made were about telecommunications companies failing to do what they already promised to do".

This demonstrated the sector “cannot regulate itself”, he said.

“These aren’t complex issues, they are simple and should be easy to fix," Asher said. "The only conclusion that can be drawn is that telecommunications companies just do not care about consumers".

ACCAN calls on Conroy

Asher noted threats in March by the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that "he was prepared to implement regulatory measures to improve customer service and consumer protections if the industry did not rise to the challenge”.

“We now call on him [Conroy] to act decisively,” Asher said.

On Network Ten's Meet The Press on Sunday, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy branded the figures in the Ombudsman's report “an absolute shocker”.

He said that the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer Safeguards) Bill 2009 - introduced into Parliament on September 15 - would attempt to address the increase in telco complaints.

"What we need is to put pressure directly on to the telecommunications companies. This is not just one company. All of the companies in the sector are guilty of treating their customers cavalierly," the Communications Minister said.

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