Commerce Commission moves to address rising telecommunications sector complaints

The Commerce Commission is asking for views on what telecommunications providers could be doing better to address increasing complaints about the sector.

The number of consumer complaints is an indicator of consumer experience and, over the past year, consumer complaints and enquiries to the industry dispute resolution scheme, the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Scheme (TDRS), and the Commerce Commission have increased.

“The increase in complaints indicates that telecommunications providers need to lift their game to improve outcomes for consumers,” said Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson.

To get a fuller picture, the Commission is asking for views on the key pain points being experienced by consumers and what needs to be done to address them, across all dimensions of customer experience. This includes selecting and buying telecommunications services, the day-to-day performance of the service and provider, changing to another provider, and the complaints process.

“We’re asking for specific examples of the problems consumers are running into and views on how things could be done better. This will help us to understand what needs to change to make a meaningful difference for New Zealand consumers,” said Mr Gilbertson.

Recognising the importance of effective dispute resolution, the Commission is also calling for views on how the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution Scheme could be improved for consumers, as part of a formal review of these arrangements.

“We look forward to working with industry and consumer stakeholders to produce a plan for improving consumer outcomes – so we get satisfaction levels up and complaint levels down.”

A copy of the letter that was sent to stakeholder groups, including forms for providing views to the Commission, is available on our website.

Background

In 2018, Parliament gave the Commerce Commission new powers and a clear direction to improve consumer outcomes in retail telecommunications markets.

This followed a review by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that noted persistent high levels of customer dissatisfaction and complaints including issues of “poor customer service, poor quality products (coverage and speed), difficulties with installations, misleading information and billing disputes”.

The Commission has been given powers to improve retail service quality (RSQ) across all relevant dimensions including customer service, faults, installation, contracts, product disclosure, billing, switching, service performance, speed and availability.

The Commission’s powers include the ability to review industry RSQ codes, provide guidelines to the industry on RSQ matters, and create Commission RSQ codes. The Commission must also review industry dispute resolution schemes at least once every three years.

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