Consumer Safeguards Review
The consumer safeguards we have in place today were mostly designed around fixed-line voice services delivered over the existing copper telephone network. The ongoing relevance and usefulness of these protections is decreasing as Australia's telecommunications environment and consumer use of telecommunications services continue to change.
The Government has released the terms of reference for a review to prepare the telecommunications consumer protections framework for a post-2020 environment. The large-scale NBN roll-out will be complete and the vast majority of premises will have migrated to an NBN service, changing the telecommunications landscape.
The Consumer Safeguards Review is being undertaken in three parts:
- Part A: redress and complaints handling
- Part B: reliability of telecommunications services
- Part C: choice and fairness in the retail relationship between the customer and their provider.
The Government released a report on the outcomes of Part A on 15 November 2018, Part A: complaints handling and consumer redress—Consumer Safeguards Review—Report to the Minister for Communications and the Arts.
The Part A findings identified a comprehensive range of reforms designed so consumer telco service issues can be resolved quickly and effectively. Implementation of the recommendations is now largely complete. Work is ongoing to implement recommendations relating to enhanced analysis and publication of complaints handling data.
The Government has decided (at this time) not to implement recommendations relating to: ACMA oversight of the TIO scheme, instituting an authorisation process for operation of the TIO scheme, or the Minister determining standards and performance benchmarks for the TIO. The TIO has decided not to implement recommendations that would have seen it transfer the ownership of TIO Limited to the Directors of the Board.
Consultation on Part A of the Review was undertaken between 5 July and 16 August 2018. During that period, interviews were conducted and submissions were received from a variety of stakeholders which helped shape the Review's recommendations.
On 17 December 2019 the Government released the Part B report, Part B: reliability of services—Consumer Safeguards Review—Final report. The report recommends:
- wholesale level regulation of connections, repairs, and appointment keeping timeframes to underpin whole of industry performance on connecting and repairing individual services
- retail level requirements for clear consumer information around any service commitments from retailers together with transparency of performance
- further consideration of well targeted and sustainable arrangements to maximise connectivity for medically vulnerable consumers, and
- addressing existing reliability safeguards of limited and declining relevance.
We are now engaging with industry, consumer groups and regulators to progress the recommendations.
Consultation on Part B of the Review was undertaken from 15 November 2018 to 18 January 2019. The Government sought submissions and consulted with industry, consumers and key stakeholders on existing reliability measures and how they can be improved to deliver improved outcomes to consumers.
The consultation paper for Part C of the Review—Choice and fairness in the retail relationship was released on 27 July 2020, and submissions closed on 24 September 2020 (extended from the original deadline of 24 August 2020). Submissions have now been published.