Conroy threatens further telecommunications reform

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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has threatened the telecommunications industry with a plan to add additional reforms to the Telecommunications Act after an report by the industry’s ombudsman said that there was a massive spike in complaints from customers.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has said that it received 230,065 complaints from consumers and small businesses during the 2008-2009 financial year, representing a 54 percent increase from the previous year. However, while complaints about billing and payment still topped the list, complaints from mobile phone users rose 79 percent from last year.

“This report is an absolute shocker,” Senator Conroy told Network Ten’s Meet the Press program. “What we have now is a proper reporting framework demonstrating how bad consumers are being treated by their telcos. This goes to the heart of the competition problems in this sector.”

Other areas also saw massive jumps in the number of complaints, including internet (57 percent) and landline (40 percent).

“What we have announced is a bill before Parliament now to try to improve the powers of the ACCC so that they can deal with the lack of competition in this sector; we have announced we want to structurally change the sector by separating out Telstra’s wholesale and retail arm, and we want to give more fines and more standards to the consumer service obligations and universal service obligations that exist in the law today," he said.

Conroy has also said that he will sit down with the TIO to work out what it needs to do to crack down and punish companies that continue to mistreat their customers.