Australia’s communications watchdog says it will conduct a a formal inquiry into the “serious matter” of skyrocketing complaints about the nation’s phone companies.
The head of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Chris Chapman, says the inquiry will hear from telecommunications executives on how the industry handles complaints and its customer service culture.
He says he hopes the inquiry will lead to an improvement in the way telecommunications companies deal with customer complaints.
“We have reached a tipping point where the telco industry reputation for complaint handling and customer care has got to the point that enough is enough,” he said.
Mr Chapman says the public inquiry will be conducted by the ACMA and members of the public are encouraged to take part.
“All stakeholders in the telco space from the service providers to the consumer advocates to related regulators and punters like you and me, we all have our horror stories,” he said.
“We all have views about our telco providers and we will deliberately construct an opportunity for the public to be engaged.”
Mr Chapman says the most common complaints are lodged by consumers in “bill shock” and those who have misunderstood details within their contract.
“Exorbitant [bills] or there is data usage that they were unaware of, or the terms and conditions of the contract were not readily understood,” he said.
“There is seven, eight, nine, 10 issues that constantly come up and they all add up to what is certainly in perception, a very poor track record.”
Mr Chapman says the inquiry will take a collaborative approach to determine what the current practices into complaint handling are, and what expectations consumers have.
He says evidence from the chief executives of telcos will also be taken into account.
“A formal inquiry allows us to take evidence. A formal inquiry has put the industry – they are on notice that this is a serious matter,” he said.
“I frankly think that the chief executives of the telco industries will welcome this development as an opportunity for them to get to the bottom of it, to have their case explained, for the deficiencies to be shown up and for there to be what I call collaborative action to address it.
“Now in the absence of that collaborative action, we’ve certainly now got the powers to forge that framework going forward.”