Australian telcos breach consumer protection rules

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has taken action against eight telcos after they failed to provide adequate safeguards to help customers avoid service restrictions, suspensions or disconnections.

Consumer Protection Code

ACMA investigations into the following telcos found various breaches of the Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code):

The ACMA’s investigations involved reviewing the notifications provided to up to 20 customers before their services were disconnected.

Each of these telcos (excluding Vodafone) was found to have failed to provide some customers with the TCP Code-required five working days’ notice prior to restricting, suspending or disconnecting their services.

Three telcos – Foxtel, Southern Phone Company and SpinTel – also failed to provide customers with information about their policy in bill reminder notices.

Six telcos – Belong, Foxtel, MyRepublic, Southern Phone Company, SpinTel and Vodafone – failed to provide the required information in restriction, suspension or disconnection notices that would help customers better understand their situation and take appropriate action.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said telecommunications companies need to exercise greater care before taking any action that disrupts people’s service.

“Limiting an essential service like phone and internet access has the potential to cause significant distress, making it difficult for people to access their work, education, health and banking services,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

Telcos need to lift their game

“With the current cost of living pressures, I expect all telcos to take the utmost care with customers who are struggling with bills. Telcos need to lift their game to help their customers or face further regulation.”

The ACMA has issued formal warnings to Belong, Optus and MyRepublic. Exetel, Foxtel, Southern Phone Company, SpinTel and Vodafone have been directed to comply with the TCP Code. Any further non-compliance could lead to significant consequences, with potential penalties of up to $250,000 for failing to comply with an ACMA direction.

Protecting vulnerable telco customers, including those experiencing financial hardship, is one of the ACMA’s 2023–24 compliance priorities.

Related article: ACMA puts telcos on notice to improve consumer protection

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