The road ahead

The telecommunications sector in Australia is a rapidly changing environment, with technology both driving and striving to keep pace with consumer demands. In the immediate future, the increasing sophistication of mobile phones and the strong consumer appetite for them indicates that much of the TIO’s work will be spent resolving issues from this segment of the market.

Mobile services are increasingly becoming the primary mode of browsing, and transacting on, the world-wide-web. Service plans that offer both significant included call values as well as substantial data download limits will generate strong demand. Experience tells us that such plans are not always simple to understand. There is scope for consumer confusion if telecommunications services are not marketed and sold in a straightforward, transparent way.

During the past year, the TIO has observed the further convergence of services across telecommunications platforms and this is a trend we expect to continue. IPTV is growing in popularity and the devices on which consumers are able to download content are becoming more numerous. There are also signs that mobile phones as payment devices may be starting to gather momentum and bundled telephone and electricity plans are established and available.

While a proliferation of services and a choice of ways to access them is no doubt of benefit to consumers, it is also critical that they have clear paths to follow if things go wrong. The TIO anticipates that it will need to assist consumers in circumstances where not only one service provider may be a party to a complaint, but several.

This is a consideration as we look a little further ahead to the full-scale roll-out of the NBN.

Our initial focus will be on the deployment of the network, and assisting consumers and NBN Co in circumstances where the installation of infrastructure on consumers’ property may have caused disputes and damage. As consumers become connected to the NBN through their retail providers, the TIO will need to be alert to a range of other potential issues. These may include difficulties during the migration to the NBN, newly converged services and multiple service offerings at the same premises by different providers.

Notwithstanding the exciting technological developments that no doubt lay ahead for consumers, the TIO recognises that typical service-related matters such as sales transactions, bills and product faults will likely remain key drivers for consumers contacting our office. The TIO will therefore need to be flexible and to adapt if it is to respond effectively to both traditional complaint issues and the developing technologies and consumer demands that accompany them.

Outcomes from the ACMA’s Reconnecting the Customer public inquiry, as well as the launch of the DBCDE’s review of the TIO Scheme, reflect the importance of ensuring the TIO itself is appropriately prepared to tackle the exciting developments that lay ahead in Australian telecommunications.