Thursday 27 Apr 2017

Rank the Telco report launch

FCRC launched its first report to examine the hardship policies and practices of Australian telcos on Thursday 27 April in Melbourne, which was attended by representatives from both the financial counselling and telecommunications sectors.

Overall, 534 comments were submitted, including 66 recommendations for improvements. The survey results were conclusive that the current performance in the telecommunications sector is less than acceptable. All three of the first-tier providers ranked poorly, and none met the basic performance benchmarks set in other industries.

Above: Peter Gartlan (FCRC)

Above: Lisa Farrance (FCRC) and Caitlin Whiteman (Elemental Communications)

Researcher Lisa Farrance and report author Caitlin Whiteman summarised the findings, highlighting that most of the issues for consumers begin at the point of sale, with clients in many cases being signed up for products and services beyond their capacity to pay. With telecommunications services becoming increasingly essential, and disconnections severely impacting consumers' access to numerous services, the report calls for stronger regulations to abate future hardship issues. 

Michael Cosgrove, Executive General Manager of the Infrastructure Regulation Division at ACCC, welcomed the report, stating it was timely in the lead up to a review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections code (TCP code) scheduled for the end of this year. Remarking that the report is "rare in its directness," Cosgrove also acknowledged its importance in developing frameworks.

Above: Michael Cosgrove (ACCC)

Above: Narelle Clark (ACCAN)

Speaking on behalf of ACCAN, whose grant scheme funded the research project, Deputy CEO Narelle Clark addressed the need for communications to be affordable, accessible and available.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Judi Jones, also welcomed the findings of the report, adding "the next steps are most important."

Above: Judi Jones (TIO)

In the coming weeks, FCRC will meet with representatives from the major telcos to discuss the results of the report and make suggestions on ways to improve current hardship policies and practices.

Read the full 2017 Rank the Telco report here.