The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has put Melbourne-based internet service provider, NetCube, on notice for its handling of customer complaints.
The federal regulatory body said on 5 December that it had directed NetCube to comply with the complaints-handling requirements of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code), following an investigation.
The action means that if NetCube fails to comply with the ACMA’s direction by breaching the complaint handling rules in the TCP Code again, the Authority can commence Federal Court proceedings for civil penalties.
The move comes after the ACMA found that, between December 2015 and February 2016, NetCube had failed to deal promptly with complaints and failed to keep proper records of complaints as required by the TCP Code.
The TCP Code compels telecommunications providers to take certain steps to make sure customer complaints are managed with fairness, courtesy, objectivity, and efficiency, including the monitoring of delays in complaint resolution and advice to customers.
In February 2016, the ACMA identified a rise in Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaints about Novatel Telecommunications, trading as NetCube, including an increase in complaint-handling issues over the previous two consecutive quarters to December 2015.
The ACMA commenced an investigation, finding that NetCube did not keep adequate records of due dates for a proposed resolution of customer complaints, making it difficult to ensure that it met the time frames set out in the TCP Code.
Over the course of the investigation, the Authority found breaches of TCP Code obligations relating to the recording and communication of proposed resolutions, delays in resolving complaints, reasons for resolutions, customer responses, underlying causes, and credit management action for disputed amounts.
The Authority’s investigation also found one instance in which NetCube pursued a customer debt when the amount was the subject of an unresolved complaint, contrary to the requirements of the TCP Code.
In August 2015, NetCube was issued with a formal warning due to its failure to lodge required documents. A direction to comply with the TCP Code is a more serious step by the Authority.
“The ACMA expects NetCube to make improvements to its complaint-handling practices and will be keeping a close eye on complaints to the TIO,’ acting ACMA chairman, Richard Bean, said in a statement.
According to Bean, while the telecommunications industry has come a long way since complaints to the TIO peaked at almost 200,000 per year about six years ago, the latest direction for NetCube highlights continuing compliance shortfalls.
“The complaint-handling practices of some providers continue to fall short of the standards expected by consumers and the ACMA will hold them to account,” he said.
The direction comes just days after the Australian competition watchdog said it had taken action against electronics and IT retailer, MSY Technology, alleging that the company has misrepresented consumers’ rights in relation to faulty products.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed on December 1 that it had instituted legal proceedings in the Federal Court against MSY Technology and its associated entities, alleging that the businesses misrepresented consumer rights.