Changes recommended by The Australian Communications and Media Authority in its final report into the telecommunications industry should finally see Telcos held accountable for poor customer service and complaints handling, according to a national credit repairer.
Director of MyCRA Credit Repairs, Graham Doessel says if the ACMA’S changes are implemented swiftly across the industry, customers should reap the rewards.
“A shake up in the Telco industry is long overdue. Australians have been caught out time and again with botched bills and unresolved disputes with their Telco providers and their credit files have been damaged as a result,” Mr Doessel says.
He says about one third of his credit repair clients have had issues with their Telco provider which has left them out of pocket or facing black marks on their credit rating.
“Our clients have suffered greatly for the inadequate policies and procedures of many of the Telco providers in this country. We send out far too many complaints every day to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) requesting investigations into errors that have found their way onto customer’s credit files,” he says.
The ACMA is formally inviting the industry to incorporate the following changes to its Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code by February 2012:
1.Clearer pricing information in advertisements allowing consumers to more easily compare services.
2.Improved and more consistent pre-sale information about plans.
3.Developing meaningful performance metrics which allow consumers to compare providers.
4.Tools for consumers to monitor usage and expenditure.
5.Better complaints-handling by providers.
“We have closely consulted on these outcomes with consumers and industry and the overwhelming response has been that improvements are both urgent and necessary,” ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman says.
The ACMA says if the Telecommunications industry fails to develop a code that addresses these concerns, the ACMA will mandate the changes through direct regulation.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman recently revealed its findings on the extent of discontent within the industry in a report released last month from a survey of more than 500 Telco customers who had lodged complaints between July and August 2010.
The survey revealed more than half of consumers reported contact with their service providers five or more times before ringing the TIO. It also revealed most consumers reported spending three hours or more unsuccessfully trying to solve their complaint, with one in 5 saying they spent more than nine hours.
“Consumers who come to the TIO report spending substantial time and effort solving their complaints,” said Ombudsman Simon Cohen. “They report being transferred from department to department, not being transferred to supervisors and, perhaps most frustratingly, getting no solution or a broken promise for their efforts. They are – by any measure – resilient consumers.”
Mr Doessel says when disputing bills with the Telco industry, many people are unfairly penalised with a bad credit rating when the matter could have been dealt with better by the Telco in the first place.
“It is astounding the number of Telco credit file listings which contain errors, or have been put there unjustly or unfairly. Under current legislation, people do have the right to have credit file discrepancies resolved. But unfortunately it can be difficult for customers if they are not aware of the appropriate legislation and don’t have time to negotiate with creditors,” he says.
Under current legislation, an account which is more than 60 days in arrears can be listed by the creditor as being unpaid on the customer’s credit file. This ‘default’ is generally listed on a person’s credit file regardless of whether they believe there are errors in the details of the bill or with the payment amount.
“Defaults remain on a person’s credit file for 5 years. Currently, defaults – even those that are marked as ‘paid’, will prevent people from obtaining a home loan with most lenders. In fact, even having a few too many credit enquiries can be enough for an automatic decline” he says.
Mr Doessel is hoping the ACMA’s recommendations are taken on board swiftly to ensure a more transparent industry.
“Hopefully the changes will result in less confusion and complaints in general amongst Telco customers and fewer people who have their good name destroyed unnecessarily due to credit file defaults which should not be there,” he says.
MyCRA Credit Repairs is Australia’s leader in credit rating repairs. We permanently remove defaults from credit files.