ACMA orders telco to refund customer AU$660 after TIO order

The ACMA has stepped in to direct Airlan to comply with a determination by the telecommunications ombudsman to refund a customer AU$660.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced that it has had to direct telecommunications carrier Airlan to comply with a decision by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) to refund a customer AU$660.

The TIO had made repeated attempts to persuade Airlan to comply with its determination, thereafter referring the matter to the ACMA in October last year when it failed.

"The TIO scheme is an important consumer safeguard to ensure confidence in the provision of communications services in Australia," said acting ACMA Chairman Richard Bean.

"The ACMA takes it extremely seriously when a provider doesn't play by the rules."

Airlan has been given until April 24 to request a reconsideration of the ACMA's decision before further action is taken.

Earlier this month, the ACMA similarly directed two other telcos -- Total Group and Direct Connect -- to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code after they "contravened important rules about providing clear and accurate pre-sale information to consumers".

According to the ACMA, Total Group and Direct Connect had failed to provide accurate and clear detailed information in their broadband and NBN plan critical summaries even after being warned on multiple occasions.

The two carriers did not include the names of certain plans; charging information; and inclusions, exclusions, qualifications, and restrictions for some plans. They also published contradictory information on their websites.

"It is vitally important that pre-sale information about all telecommunications products and services, including those using NBN infrastructure, is complete, clear, and accurate," Bean said at the time.

"Customers must be able to make genuinely informed decisions about charges, equipment, and speed. Retail service providers' NBN services will be one of the ACMA's 2017 compliance priorities as the number of providers offering services over the NBN continues to increase."

The ACMA has the power to give formal warnings and directions to comply with the TCP Code, and once a company has breached a direction to comply, the ACMA may issue an infringement notice, accept an enforceable undertaking from the company, or begin proceedings in the Australian Federal Court seeking a pecuniary penalty.

The TCP Code, which first came into effect in July 2012 and was updated at the end of 2015, serves the primary purposes of requiring telcos to provide consumers with clear information about what their plans offer, including a two-page summary of every plan; notify customers about how much voice and data they have used under their plan; and suggest spend-management tools to prevent future overuse.

ACMA updates IPND access rules

The ACMA on Wednesday also announced that it has updated the rules allowing researchers and directory publishers to gain access to the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) so that authorised research industry bodies are given more "efficient" access to telecommunications information after completing a privacy impact statement.

Research bodies are not permitted to access the names of customers or to unlisted numbers, however, with access to phone numbers and postcodes provided only for the purpose of research on health, electoral, or government policy topics.

Consent must be obtained from consumers prior to publishing their details in a research project.

The IPND access rules update follows the ACMA revising its Do Not Call Register last month to "include new obligations for telemarketers to provide the name of their organisation at the beginning of calls, in addition to the name of the entity on whose behalf they are calling", Bean said.

Telemarketers must now also provide recipients with their calling line identification number.

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