Telemarketers pressure consumers into signing NBN contracts: TIO

A total of 1,729 complaints were received in 2018 about telemarketers using misleading tactics.

Investigations by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has revealed that telemarketers are using scare tactics to pressure consumers into signing up to National Broadband Network (NBN) contracts they don't want, need, or can't afford. 

In its report, Misleading Telemarketing of NBN Services [PDF], the TIO revealed telemarketers were threatening consumers of being disconnected from phone and internet services, loss of phone numbers, and providing inaccurate or unclear information about the pricing of NBN plans, the contract term, or the expected data speed. 

According to the Ombudsman, during the calendar year of 2018, residential consumers and small businesses made 1,729 complaints to the TIO in relation to these misleading conduct by telemarketers of NBN services. 

The report revealed the misleading telemarketing practices have been particularly felt by older consumers, some of whom do not use internet at home, which the Ombudsman said is consistent with research by Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that found there is a lower understanding about connecting to the NBN among those who are 65 years or older.

"Consumers are being told information about moving to the NBN that is simply not true and puts them at a disadvantage. This is concerning behaviour from a small group of phone and internet providers and should stop. In some cases we have shared information about this issue with the relevant regulators so they can consider further action," Ombudman Judi Jones said.

Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton has condemned the misleading sales practices, saying it is "very disappointing" when consumer trust is breached. 

"Providers like that are not welcome in our Industry. Communications Alliance members are working with the ACMA to act against such behaviour and prevent those providers from continuing to operate," he said. 

"Additionally, the strengthened Industry Code – the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code - comes into effect today, including vigorous new rules on selling practices, which will help the ACMA enforce against the practices raised in the TIO's Spotlight."

Similarly, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO Teresa Corbin described the actions as "extremely disappointing".

"Consumers are entitled to accurate information and should not be pressured into making any sort of purchase," she said. 
 
"We've seen the ACCC take action against misleading telcos in the past for similar practices, so would hope that the industry had learned its lesson. However as the TIO's report shows, further enforcement action may be needed."

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