ACMA releases telco complaints hearing dates

Hearings will help "materially improve outcomes" for consumers of telecommunications

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released details on the public hearings it will be holding into the state of complaints-handling in the Australian telecommunications sector.

The inquiry, Reconnecting the Customer, was announced in April and was followed by a consultation paper on customer service in the communications sector in July.

According to the ACMA the hearings will provide an opportunity for participants to discuss written submissions already lodged with the ACMA, or to make a new verbal submission.

‘The hearings are an important part of the public inquiry process to assist the ACMA to materially improve outcomes for consumers of telecommunications and foster a paradigm shift in industry players’ behaviours,’ ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said in statement.

Despite the round of public hearings, the ACMA in September reported that its public inquiry into telecommunication customer care had drawn poor responses from the industry.

According to the ACMA's Chapman, more than 120 submissions were received from industry, government, consumer representative groups and individuals, but the response from industry fell short of expectations given initially positive signals from executives.

"Too many of the submissions were little more than reiterations of the current self-regulatory framework and cautioned against any regulatory intervention," he said in a statement during September. "I was surprised the telcos did not come up with more constructive solutions to issues they admit are major problems."

Already this month the ACMA has reported that it received a total of 3212 online complaints in the past year, more than three times the number of complaints it received in the previous year, according to the industry watchdog's annual report.

Australian ISPs and telcos have been put on notice that they must lift customer service standards following a call from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) that consumer protection rules be overhauled.

In September the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) also made the call that consumer protection rules be overhauled.

The ACMA’s public hearings will be held as follows:

Sydney: Wednesday, 27 October 2010 Melbourne: Friday, 29 October 2010 Adelaide: Monday, 1 November 2010 Townsville: Monday, 8 November 2010 Launceston: Monday, 15 November 2010

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