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Telcos To Stop “Bill Shocks”….Or Else

Telcos To Stop “Bill Shocks”….Or Else

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority has agreed to implement the ‘Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code’, giving long-suffering telco customers more protection from issues such as bill shock, confusing mobile plans and poor complaints-handling.

Telstra and Vodafone have already introduced bill notifications, which alert users via SMS when they have used up their plan allowances, to reduce “bill shock” – a syndrome frequently suffered by Aussie telco customers.

 In fact, the syndrome is so widespread almost half of all phone users (or around 7 million) suffered bill shockers last year -$557 million worth of a shock, in all, a report by Macquarie Uni showed.

The code now means all telcos and “service providers” are obliged to introduce such customer protections into their service, which will also force them to handle complaints efficiently (and without rudeness).

And telcos will now be forced to make mobile and other plans super clear in ads – and “prominently display” the cost (prior to any discounts) of making a 2 minute call (including flagfall); sending an SMS; and using 1 MB of data.

In other words, no ads for “deals” costing $39 a month, which end up costing $59 when the true costs of the plan is calculated.

For those who have experience rude operators when making a complaint – rudeness to customers is no longer accepted under the new code, enforced by ACMA.

“The industry has developed initiatives in its code to deliver world’s best protections for Australian consumers which should give rise to a much needed, much improved, customer experience,” said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

“The code is a unique and ground-breaking document by world standards, bringing together best practice protections at all of the touch points in the telco customer lifecycle.” 

In 2010 ACMA signalled to telcos they would face the prospect of direct regulation unless it significantly improved its performance, which forced them to clean up their act, with Telstra one of the first to make headway on this, followed by others. 

The ACMA said it will very closely monitor the progress of the code and will use its powers of investigation and enforcement if telcos do not adhere to the regs.

“Compliance with the code is no longer an option,” it warned in a statement today.