ACMA issues Vodafone with TCP Code directions

Authority says telco must comply with Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code or risk civil penalties

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) provided directions for Vodafone and Vodafone Network to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code).

This follows an investigation by ACMA which found Vodafone and Vodafone Network had failed to classify and analyse complaints as required by the Code, did not provide timely customer information about network performance issues in 2010 and had poor systems in place for protecting the privacy of customers’ personal details prior to January 2011 when an alleged leak of customer data occurred.

ACMA chairman, Chris Chapman, said in a statement that the directions are intended to make sure the company remains focussed on improving outcomes for its customers.

“Vodafone has made positive changes over the course of this year but, from this point on, if either Vodafone company fails to comply with the TCP Code, the ACMA can approach the Federal Court seeking civil penalties of up to $250,000,” he said.

In response, Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) chief executive, Nigel Dews, said in a statement that it had addressed the points raised in ACMA’s directions.

“Since the issues emerged in late 2010, everyone at Vodafone has been committed to delivering a better network and service experience,” he said.

“We have supported the ACMA throughout their thorough and lengthy assessment, and while we respect the ACMA’s view of past events, we haven’t waited for their report to tell us what we’ve needed to do.”

Dews pointed out that in February 2011, it had fast-tracked a $1 billion investment in the new Vodafone 3G network.

“Customer service improvements were also made and we expanded the network information available to customers. Security measures were tightened for customer information,” he said.

For example, the company created an online postcode checker for customers to view indoor and outdoor coverage as well as planned or unplanned outages in their area.

“This information is supplied [in] real time via our network engineers monitoring the network. Customer service representatives and retail staff can also make a note of when customers tell us about network issues which is then provided to our network engineers to trouble shoot,” Dews said.

In addition, the company has made changes to the complaints handling process to ensure that “expressions of dissatisfaction” are identified as complaints.

“While the details of complaints had been recorded so they could be trended and searched, this additional identifier has been added,” Dews said.

Data security has also improved with login identification and authentication processes, more frequent password resets and limiting approved access points for stores and dealers.

“Action was taken with employees who had shared passwords and the Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, concluded in February 2011 that no information was made publicly available on the internet,” Dews said.

ACMA also concluded in its investigation that there was no disclosure of customer information.

In August 2011, the telco revealed it had lost 375,000 customers, as users sought alternatives in response to network and customer service issues.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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Tags customer servicedata securityVodafoneNigel Dewsprivacy commissionerACMA

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