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Systemic issues

The TIO can investigate issues arising from complaints that may affect a large number of consumers as a result of a failure in a service provider’s systems or processes. We identify those “systemic issues” by monitoring complaint data, alerts from our staff and information received from service providers.

When we decide that an issue warrants our involvement, we first approach the service provider informally for information. Based on this we may recommend potential solutions and seek undertakings from the provider to resolve the issue. Most systemic issues are resolved at this stage with cooperation from the service provider.

If we are unable to negotiate a solution informally with the provider, we may need to formally investigate the issue. Finally, if a resolution is not achieved at this stage, we may decide to report the issue to a regulator.

Systemic investigations are a key area that the TIO will focus on to deliver our new vision and roles. By more effectively dealing with and reporting on systemic issues, we will seek to fulfil our commitment to contribute to better customer service and complaint handling in the telecommunications industry.

Our reporting on systemic issues was also the subject of recommendations made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) Reconnecting the Customer report, and the Department of Communications, Broadband and the Digital Economy’s (DBCDE) review of the TIO.

From 1 July 2012, our Systemic Investigations team became a part of the newly created Industry, Community and Government Division, taking on the role of Industry Improvement, which will help us deliver on our strategic planning and respond to the recommendations of the ACMA and DBCDE reviews.

Systemic issues in 2011-12

The systemic issues team conducted 79 investigations, including matters acted on informally or formally in the last financial year. These related to:

Issue

Number

Percentage

Billing and payments

26

33%

Point of sale advice

15

19%

Transfers

13

16%

Credit management

9

11%

Contracts

8

10%

Faults

4

5%

Connections

2

3%

Customer service

2

3%

View Systemic issues table

Important work done by the TIO’s Systemic Investigations team in 2011-12 includes:

Monitoring and raising informal investigations with a number of small providers who had complaints made against them after consumers claimed being misled into transferring their services. This usually happened by some telemarketers misleadingly introducing themselves as representatives from a large provider. As a result, some providers amended the sales scripts that their telemarketers used, terminated contracts with agencies that were causing the issue, or implemented better quality assurance processes to make sure that new customers had given informed consent to transferring their services. Affected consumers were transferred back to their preferred providers. Read more information in TIO Talks No.3 2011.

Partnering with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to alert consumers about an internet banking and mobile transfer scam. From 2011, we have been monitoring complaints from consumers who are victims of a scam where their mobile phone number is transferred away to a third party without proper authorisation, and who then have large sums of money withdrawn from their bank accounts. The scammers use the fraudulently obtained number to receive an SMS code to validate an internet banking transaction.

Referring a service provider to the ACMA after being unable to formally resolve an issue regarding potential entitlement of consumers to compensation under the CSG Standard 2006. A large number of consumers complained about lengthy connection and repair delays to which they had no effective redress after having purportedly waived their rights under the Standard at the time. It was the TIO’s view that the provider had not provided sufficient information to the consumer when proposing a waiver of rights.

Aero Telecom improves point of sale advice

Aero Telecom, a small telecommunications company offering landline services, joined the TIO in September 2011.  After only two months of being a member, we noticed they were receiving an unusually large number of complaints for an emerging provider.

On closer analysis of these complaints, we noticed there was a common theme: consumers would claim they had inadvertently switched to Aero  after receiving a call from a telemarketer that misrepresented  the company they were calling from, usually by claiming they were calling from the consumers’ existing service providers. The consumers said they only realised what had happened when they received a bill from Aero.

We became concerned that the telemarketers were not accurately stating they were calling on behalf of Aero, and were therefore transferring consumers’ services without their informed consent. We contacted Aero Telecom about the issue and asked it to clarify what steps it would take to ensure it was accurately representing its identity as a supplier, obtaining informed consent before transferring consumers’ services and providing accurate information about cooling off period rights and obligations.

As a result of our conversations, Aero’s sales scripts were amended to avoid staff misrepresenting the company, ensuring consumers understood the effect of agreeing to their offers and verifying the consumer’s consent before the end of statutory cooling off periods as required under the Australian Consumer Law and the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.

The company also undertook to provide staff training and improve its quality assurance program.

As a result of implementing these measures, from February to June 2012 we only received two complaints involving point of sale advice issues for Aero Telecom.

Aero Telecom improves point of sale advice

Aero Telecom, a small telecommunications company offering landline services, joined the TIO in September 2011.  After only two months of being a member, we noticed they were receiving an unusually large number of complaints for an emerging provider.

On closer analysis of these complaints, we noticed there was a common theme: consumers would claim they had inadvertently switched to Aero  after receiving a call from a telemarketer that misrepresented  the company they were calling from, usually by claiming they were calling from the consumers’ existing service providers. The consumers said they only realised what had happened when they received a bill from Aero.

We became concerned that the telemarketers were not accurately stating they were calling on behalf of Aero, and were therefore transferring consumers’ services without their informed consent. We contacted Aero Telecom about the issue and asked it to clarify what steps it would take to ensure it was accurately representing its identity as a supplier, obtaining informed consent before transferring consumers’ services and providing accurate information about cooling off period rights and obligations.

As a result of our conversations, Aero’s sales scripts were amended to avoid staff misrepresenting the company, ensuring consumers understood the effect of agreeing to their offers and verifying the consumer’s consent before the end of statutory cooling off periods as required under the Australian Consumer Law and the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.

The company also undertook to provide staff training and improve its quality assurance program.

As a result of implementing these measures, from February to June 2012 we only received two complaints involving point of sale advice issues for Aero Telecom.