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Reviewing the TIO

KPMG review

The TIO’s Articles of Association require us to conduct regular and independent reviews of the organisation. The TIO Board commissioned consultancy firm KPMG to conduct such a review in December 2010, and its report was presented to the Board in June 2011.

KPMG’s review was broadly very positive, recognising that we are meeting the benchmarks for alternative dispute resolution bodies originally set by the then Department of Industry Science and Tourism (DIST) and embraced by the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA).

The review noted the changes facing the telecommunications industry, such as convergence, the increasing rate of mobile services and the National Broadband Network (NBN). All of these things mean that the TIO may face increased demand and complexity, as well as greater government and consumer attention.

The KPMG report recommended operational changes to increase the accessibility of the TIO, and our capacity to respond to variable complaint demand. The report also recommended a more strategic orientation and structured planning process to drive continual TIO improvement. Since the report the TIO has completed a thorough review of our Vision, roles and strategy, encapsulating many of the recommendations of KPMG in the various strategic priorities (See Strategic Planning).

KPMG also made observations and recommendations concerning the TIO’s governance structure. Subsequently, both the current Board and Council have indicated that the TIO should move toward the adoption of a unitary governance structure. Work has commenced, through a transition committee of industry and consumer representatives, for developing and designing long-term governance arrangements, including an implementation plan.

The DBCDE’s inquiry into reform of the TIO

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) reported on its inquiry into reform of the TIO in May 2012. The report followed the ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer Inquiry report, which included recommendations about the governance arrangements and systemic investigation procedures of the TIO.

The DBCDE report found that the TIO has and continues to provide high quality dispute resolution services despite surges in complaints. However, to better prepare the TIO for future complaint surges and a more complex telecommunications industry, the report made a number of recommendations to enhance our role. These include:

  • increase compliance incentives for service providers to work with the TIO
  • improve public reporting, including about non-compliance, additional complaint metrics and the TIO’s own performance
  • widen the definition of systemic issues, and increase the reporting of our work in this area
  • assist service providers to improve their own dispute resolution practices
  • review our dual governance structure (Board and Council) to adopt a unitary model.

The operational recommendations have been considered in developing our 2012-15 Strategy. Those recommendations that suggest changes to the TIO Constitution are currently under consideration by the TIO Council.

Systemic case study: TPG Internet’s oral waivers under the CSG Standard

The Customer Service Guarantee Standard (CSG) is legislation that sets out the minimum standard times in which a service provider must connect or repair a fault on a landline service. It also gives consumers the right, if these times are not met, to be compensated for a delay. In certain circumstances, a service provider may ask a consumer to waive their rights under the CSG Standard.

From early 2011, the TIO received a significant number of complaints from consumers about connection and repair delays with their telephone services provided by TPG and their possible entitlement to compensation under the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard 2006.

We noticed that TPG was informing consumers during telephone sales calls that the connection of a standard telephone service would take longer than what the CSG Standard allows in most circumstances. TPG also required customers to waive their rights and protections under the CSG Standard when applying for a telephone service. According to the CSG Standard 2006, a provider could request a consumer to waive their rights in exchange for a significant service benefit.

We raised our concerns with TPG that its telephone-based oral waiver did not appear to be compliant with the section of the Standard that sets the minimum of information a provider is obligated to give consumers about the protection and rights they would forgo by accepting the waiver.

The CSG Standard was updated and came into force on 1 October 2011. One of the features of the Standard in 2011 was the removal the requirement of a provider to offer a “significant service benefit” when requesting a consumer to waive their rights. In light of this, as well as changes that TPG had made to its oral waiver scripting as of 12 May 2011, the TIO and TPG agreed to look at the validity of its waivers within three specific periods:

Before 12 May 2011. We considered that TPG’s oral waiver did not meet the requirements of the original CSG Standard.

Between 12 May 2011 and 1 October 2011. We considered that TPG’s oral waiver met the requirements of the original CSG Standard.

After 1 October 2011. We considered that TPG’s oral waiver met the requirements of the updated CSG Standard.

On the basis that a number of TPG customers – those who signed up for a service before 12 May 2012, and purportedly agreed to waive CSG rights – may have been entitled to compensation under the 2006 CSG Standard retrospectively, the TIO asked TPG to identify affected consumers and redress any detriment. TPG indicated that it was prepared to treat complaints from such customers as being eligible for CSG compensation but that it did not wish to approach those customers again for the purposes of either seeking a revised waiver or to offer compensation to affected customers. 

As permitted under the TIO Constitution, and because a resolution was not agreed with TPG, the TIO referred the Systemic issue to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for further consideration.

Systemic case study: TPG Internet’s oral waivers under the CSG Standard

The Customer Service Guarantee Standard (CSG) is legislation that sets out the minimum standard times in which a service provider must connect or repair a fault on a landline service. It also gives consumers the right, if these times are not met, to be compensated for a delay. In certain circumstances, a service provider may ask a consumer to waive their rights under the CSG Standard.

From early 2011, the TIO received a significant number of complaints from consumers about connection and repair delays with their telephone services provided by TPG and their possible entitlement to compensation under the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard 2006.

We noticed that TPG was informing consumers during telephone sales calls that the connection of a standard telephone service would take longer than what the CSG Standard allows in most circumstances. TPG also required customers to waive their rights and protections under the CSG Standard when applying for a telephone service. According to the CSG Standard 2006, a provider could request a consumer to waive their rights in exchange for a significant service benefit.

We raised our concerns with TPG that its telephone-based oral waiver did not appear to be compliant with the section of the Standard that sets the minimum of information a provider is obligated to give consumers about the protection and rights they would forgo by accepting the waiver.

The CSG Standard was updated and came into force on 1 October 2011. One of the features of the Standard in 2011 was the removal the requirement of a provider to offer a “significant service benefit” when requesting a consumer to waive their rights. In light of this, as well as changes that TPG had made to its oral waiver scripting as of 12 May 2011, the TIO and TPG agreed to look at the validity of its waivers within three specific periods:

Before 12 May 2011. We considered that TPG’s oral waiver did not meet the requirements of the original CSG Standard.

Between 12 May 2011 and 1 October 2011. We considered that TPG’s oral waiver met the requirements of the original CSG Standard.

After 1 October 2011. We considered that TPG’s oral waiver met the requirements of the updated CSG Standard.

On the basis that a number of TPG customers – those who signed up for a service before 12 May 2012, and purportedly agreed to waive CSG rights – may have been entitled to compensation under the 2006 CSG Standard retrospectively, the TIO asked TPG to identify affected consumers and redress any detriment. TPG indicated that it was prepared to treat complaints from such customers as being eligible for CSG compensation but that it did not wish to approach those customers again for the purposes of either seeking a revised waiver or to offer compensation to affected customers. 

As permitted under the TIO Constitution, and because a resolution was not agreed with TPG, the TIO referred the Systemic issue to the Australian Communications and Media Authority for further consideration.