Commission finalises emergency calling protections for consumers in power cuts

The Commerce Commission has finalised its 111 Contact Code to protect consumers who rely on their home phones to contact 111 emergency services in a power cut.

The code supports consumers who can no longer call 111 in a power cut because they have moved to new home phone technologies like fibre and fixed wireless. These technologies need a power supply in the home to work, meaning they will not work in a power cut, without an independent power source.

“It’s clear from our consultation that many New Zealanders are unaware that new home phone technologies may not allow them to call 111 in a power cut,” Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson says.

“Our code aims to boost awareness of this issue so that Kiwis can take steps to ensure they’re not caught short in an emergency – such as by getting a battery back-up to maintain power to their home phone or by ensuring they have access to a mobile phone at home.”

Under the Code, telecommunications service providers must tell new customers, and remind existing customers at least once a year, that their home phone may not work in a power cut. Providers must also tell their customers how they can protect themselves and where to go for further support.

Mr Gilbertson says the Code also requires providers to take extra steps to ensure that vulnerable consumers, such as those with a known medical condition, are able to contact emergency services in a power cut, at no cost to the consumer.

“What this means is that home phone customers who don’t have an alternative way to contact 111 in a power cut can apply to their provider if they are at particular risk of needing to call emergency services for health, security or disability reasons.

“If they qualify, their provider will work with them to determine the right product for their particular needs.”

The Code includes protections to ensure providers cannot deny or stop supplying home phone services to customers because they are, or will become, a vulnerable consumer under the Code.

Customers can complain to the Telecommunications Disputes Resolution Service (TDRS), which provides independent resolution of consumer disputes with telecommunications providers, if their provider does not comply with the Code.

The Code comes into effect in February 2021, though providers have until August 2021 to make the process for extra support available to vulnerable consumers.

The final code is available on our website.

Background

The Commerce Commission regulates New Zealand’s telecommunications providers and can set industry guidelines and rules.

Under the Telecommunications (New Regulatory Framework) Amendment Act, the Commission must create a 111 contact code by 1 January 2022.

The Commission is also developing a Copper Withdrawal Code that sets out the minimum consumer protections that Chorus, the provider of New Zealand’s copper telecommunications network, must meet before it can withdraw copper services in areas where fibre services are available. The Copper Withdrawal Code is due to be published in December 2020.

The Act also provides for the deregulation of copper services in areas where fibre is available, creates a new regulatory regime for fibre networks and includes new powers to improve consumer outcomes in retail telecommunications markets.

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