National Broadband Network (NBN) resellers may have to hold on to customer complaint records relating to network migrations for two years under proposed enforceable rules by the country’s telco regulator.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said on 21 December last year it would impose the new rules on NBN retail service providers (RSPs) in a bid to improve the consumer experience in moving to the NBN.
Now, the Government’s telco industry regulator has released its consultation draft of the proposed rules, calling on industry feedback to help shape the new regime. The proposed regime will be applicable to both network carriers and carriage service providers, such a RSPs.
Under the proposed rules, a telecommunications carriage service provider would need to establish a complaints handling process that includes the minimum requirements for consumer complaints handling as laid out by the ACMA.
Among these is the requirement that an RSP keep records of NBN migration complaints records for at least two years.
Additionally, where an RSP is not subject to the requirements of the Privacy Act 1988, it would need to ensure that personal information it collects in connection with a complaint is not disclosed to a third party except under special circumstances.
Under the draft rules, an RSP’s complaints handling process would need to provide that a consumer’s telecommunications service cannot be cancelled for the sole reason that the consumer was unable to resolve the complaint directly with the carriage service provider and pursued options for external dispute resolution.
A carriage service provider would also need to acknowledge a complaint received by telephone or in store immediately, and a complaint sent via email, post, a recorded telephone message or via the reseller’s website within two working days of receiving the complaint.
A carriage service provider would need to provide its best efforts to resolve a complaint on first contact and tailor any remedy offered to a consumer so that, as far as practicable, the remedy would address the main cause of the complaint.
An RSP would also need to resolve complaints about alleged billing errors within the consumer’s current billing period and close a complaint or an urgent complaint with the consent of the consumer.
Moreover, an RSP would need to advise consumers of any delay to proposed timeframes for managing or handling their complaint as soon as possible after becoming aware of the delay.
Additionally, an RSP would have to establish processes, procedures and systems, for monitoring and analysing its complaints records to identify systemic issues and problems, and prevent those systemic issues and problems and related complaints from recurring.
Specifically, a network reseller would need to classify and analyse complaints a minimum of once every three months, monitor complaints every 12 months to identify new issues that need specific attention and record any new issues identified in writing and take steps to address problems or issues identified.
Australia's Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, suggested the proposed rules were intended to stop the "handballing" of complaints between telcos and NBN Co, giving the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman better tools to help resolve complaints.
“While the overwhelming majority of users have a smooth migration onto the NBN, we want to ensure the ACMA is a strong cop-on-the-beat, armed to protect consumers from the handballing of complaints," Fifield said.
The proposed rules come as the ACMA releases data showing that almost half of the households it has about their NBN migrations have reported service drop-outs since connecting to the network.
Of all the households surveyed, 49 per cent reported service dropouts since connecting to the NBN and 28 per cent service outages, while 27 per cent reported no issue or fault with their connection, the ACMA revealed.