Major telcos may be hit with a penalty of $2 million should they fail to comply with a new customer service guarantee (CSG) standard established by the Federal Government in an effort to shield consumers against poor customer service.
Following the recent crackdown on telco customer service, communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, introduced the Telecommunications (Customer Service Guarantee — Retail Performance Benchmarks) Instrument (No.1) 2011 to commence on 1 October this year, and said the safeguard would make larger carriage service providers (CSP) improve their quality of service.
“The CSG Standard is designed to protect consumers against poor customer service by setting timeframes to be met by service providers for the connection, fault repair, and keeping of appointments in relation to standard telephone services,” Conroy said in a statement.
“This instrument makes larger CSPs meet the timeframes under the Customer Service Guarantee Standard 90 per cent of the time for connecting new services, repairing existing ones and turning up to appointments.”
According to Conroy, should CSPs fail to meet the timeframes in 90 per cent of cases, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will fine the telco using the infringement notice powers provided by Parliament in 2010.
The maximum penalty is scheduled to be set following the upcoming public consultation period and could be as high as $2 million (18,000 penalty units).
Smaller providers — those who offer less than 100,000 CSG services nationally — will be exempt from the CSG Standard, Conroy said, and thresholds for urban, rural and remote areas will also be in place.
“Reporting by ACMA has shown the existing CSG Standard does not do enough to ensure service providers maintain or improve service quality, particularly in regional and remote areas,” he said.
“These new measures will promote consistency and provide incentives for service providers to improve performance, especially in rural and remote areas.”
The safeguard follows the announcement by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) to make changes to internal processes and structures for better communication with telcos and service providers in handling and resolving complaints.
“Beginning next month, we will refocus our investigation process to prioritise the use of conciliation first,” TIO, Simon Cohen, said at the time.
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