CHOICE membership

Telecommunications Customer Service Guarantee


#21

I remember a family member had a Telecom (back then) service installed that was deemed ‘local’ as it was within the required distance of the nearest exchange, yet because the nearest exchange was the other side of a large mountain range they had the service delivered from a town three times as far away (80km or so) - using what I believe was called a DRCS or Digital Radio Concentrating System. A repeater of sorts on an elevated location half way back to the town and a 30-40ft tower, dish and all the accoutrements to supply a ‘standard landline’ on their kitchen counter. Maybe a touchphone 200 :slight_smile: That was back in the day when calls cost a fortune but arguably we had one of the best telephone coverages in the world. I guess it is probably true, you get what you pay for - and people on remote communities and cattle stations would never have ‘the phone’ if it weren’t for some form of government intervention. Which reminds me of another story, driving around Warumpi land in the middle of nowhere came across an outstation, uninhabited, that had a solar powered satellite public telephone that could make free calls to anywhere … some market segments really do get good service, as they probably should … :slight_smile:


#22

I thought the ACL meant that you can’t sign away your rights under ACL.

Not sure how this fits in relation to a CSG


#23

This is not just happening with the NBN – it is happening here in Canberra with its home-grown VDSL (coaxial cable) network originally installed by a mostly-publically-owned company called TransACT.

When iiNet acquired TransACT here in Canberra four years or so ago they acquired me as a customer, and they acquired TransACT’s legacy process of issuing two bills, not as you might expect for the landline and the broadband service – those two were combined into a single bill – but for those two and separately for being my Internet Service Provider.

At the time I paid $10 a month for the ISP service, which iiNet proposed increasing to $30. In compensation they offered me a $20 discount off the standard charge for their cheapest landline/broadband plan, for which I currently pay about $40 a month (after two or three dollars of call charges and a further discount for paying by direct debit), a total of about $70.

On May 10 I received two emails, one for each iiNet account, with an identical spiel about what I believe was in effect a forced upgrade to their new the VDSL2 network, for which the cheapest plan would be $70 a month.

Two days later I had a call from TransACT – I’ve taken the chance to tell the tale of the source of that call elsewhere on Choice’s website (Mobile phone doesn’t ring but do get SMS about ‘missed call’).

The TransACT representative, a Filipina called Sunny, confirmed that the new plan would consolidate my existing two bills so that I would be paying no more for an improved service, particularly for an increase from my present download limit of 9GB – which I have never exceeded, incidentally – to Liimitless Data (and I complimented her on the double-i pun). She suggested I should move across immediately, rather than waiting until July when the (forced?) “upgrade” would occur anyway.

Despite my somewhat-allayed concern at losing my reliable landline for the unreliability of VoIP – they call it Netphone – and other only somewhat-allayed concerns discussed at length with Sunny, I agreed.

She immediately transferred me to another line where after a brief old-fashioned ringtone a man’s voice began to tell me about the requirement to waive my CSG rights.

When the recorded voice asked me whether I agreed to the waiver, and I said no, Sunny came back on the line immediately to ask me if I was really not agreeing, and when I confirmed my refusal to waive these rights without at least doing some research into what it might really mean, she told me it would be impossible to proceed with the upgrade without the waiver.

I asked her what the alternatives were, and she said she thought it should be possible to retain my CSG rights by remaining with my existing two-bill system but for access to the new network (since the old network was being closed down come what may), and she put me on hold to check. When she came back she said I could continue to pay TransACT $50 a month and iiNet $30 a month, losing my special discounts in the process (for which she had some excuse I’ve now forgotten).

When I said this meant I was effectively being asked to pay an additional $10 a month to retain my CSG rights, paying a total of $80 a month plus some call charges rather than the $70 I was paying at present, and would also pay on the new network (at a minimum) if I waived my CSG rights, she did not disagree. She promised to put this alternative offer in writing and email it to me, but she has not done so yet.


#24

You are correct mathew I signed away my CSG rights years ago when I chose to relinquish my Telstra terrestial line for a VOIP line with an ISP provider as they could NOt guarrantee continuity of service once mains power was lost
The bottom line is when 240V power is lost so is the VOIP line and internet.

Telstra was obligated to provide the CSG and in the main if power was lost the phone line was connected to the exchange with copper cable and powered from the Telstra Exchange, still functioned as ALL main Telstra exchanges have Diesel plants and HUGE back up batteries which kick in in case of power failure. So it is NOT a plot of the current government or the previous Labor government to deprive customers of the CSG.

The same applies to FTTN NBN customers as their phone service is a VOIP one with copper to a kerbside cabinet (The NODE) AND a Mains powered modem at their premises. I have an 80 years plus cousin who now has a VOIP phone and struggles to understand why his phone does NOT work as it did before when he loses mains power. He does NOT see this as progress and he is not interested in the internet.

FTTH NBN customers do have an option IF they agree up front for a battery option which at the most gives them 4 - 5 hours grace. However I believe that they HAVE to pay for the battery option. This option is NOT offered to FTTN NBN customers as all modems are mains powered.

HFC NBN customers do not have battery back up after power failure as I can attest to that as I am currently a Telstra HFC customer and soon will become an HFC NBN customer.

I hope that this clarifies things somewhat and stops those with political/other(conspiracy theories) axes to grind.


#25

Without comment you may think this is about a political axe, the original FTTP w/battery was fit for purpose as a generally reliable national communications backbone and system. The current mix is not and has cost as much or more to roll out a product that is deemed not fit for purpose by many pundits.

Pointing out the ALP “designed” FTTP and the coalition “designed” the current system is not partisanship, it is reality.


#26

It may very well be a plot by Government, as part of their supposed better network than FTTP, to reduce their exposure to compensation by voiding the CSG by omission. I know how the new systems will/do work and I am aware of the power limitations of most of them. My comments and frustration do not come from a lack of understanding. Nor am I politically motivated to post here but rather I am posting as what used to exist is being removed and no adequate remedies other than ACL (which was inadequate in this case so CSG was developed) are in place. When someone in the past made their choice to forgo CSG there was still in place an option for them to have it’s benefits if they instead used the USO carrier, Telstra or any other standard phone service provider.

Anyone who gets HTTP, HFC, FTTN, FTTK, FTTB will have to use VOIP if they wish to have a landline in their house, whether battery backed up or not, and I stress “will have to”. Just because technology moves on doesn’t mean there should not be compensation provided when a service fails that a user has paid for and relies on for safety, security, business and/or pleasure. VOIP is no longer just an option in your choices re landlines, It has become the only choice.

TPG and the others will not be/are not providing a “different” service anymore but rather they are/will be providing the bog standard. The CSG wasn’t about not having faults/installations it was about getting timely fixes/installs when required or being compensated for untimely extra delays Why doesn’t this then apply to the new service we are getting. I think it should apply and it should now be made compulsory for either the NBN Co or all providers by either producing a new CSG or amending the old one to cover this technological shift. My take on this is that it should be NBN Co who ultimately should be made to cover it but the main thing is that it is reviewed, debated and fixed.


#27

I was totally unaware of this issue until reading this thread. I’m in Canberra, but outside of the TransACT cable (by a couple of hundred metres :angry:). No NBN in my area until the rest of Australia has it - so fix the problems by 2020, please people!

More broadly, is at telecommunications carrier able to seek customer waivers of the carrier’s legal responsibilities? It sounds from some of the comments above as if this is the case, but I would be interested in seeing the actual law. A guarantee of service is useless if carriers can simply bully customers into waiving their rights.

I suspect that there are a few avenues for dealing with this. Firstly, the ACCC would probably be quite concerned if an individual is unable to get access to a CSG. If there is a ‘supplier of last resort’ that will keep the CSG without charging crazy prices for it, not a problem. Otherwise, ‘the market’ has failed and intervention is required.

The second avenue I can think of is the court. Telephone services are considered a right. There is a CSG to protect the customer. If every supplier refuses to supply services unless the CSG is waived, then the consumer is unable to gain the protection offered by law and is in fact unable to act as a free agent when entering into their contract; they are being coerced!

The second option here is obviously much more expensive, and courts can make poor decisions (or the law may not provide the necessary clear protections). There would have to be a petitioner with ‘standing’, or perhaps a class action. (I wonder whether an individual application to the Small Claims Court might also get some attention on the issue?)

Of course, as previously mentioned I suggest that the sensible course would be for consumer groups to take up this issue - maybe this could be done as part of a broad campaign that includes the ACCC and perhaps courts.

Do people have copies of waiver documents that they can provide to - perhaps - Xavier in the first instance? Blank out personal information, but if Choice can get a stack of the same documents from different carriers that provides a very good idea of the problem and possibly will inform the approach.

Xavier, are you okay with this suggestion?

For people who are asked to respond to a recorded message, you will need to ask for a copy of that to provide to Choice (if you are comfortable in doing so). You have the right to a copy of your voice recording, although companies do not like to make this clear either to customers or staff so you may need to push a little.

Finally, a side note: hands up if you have been asked to allow a company to record your phone call, and in response indicated that you will also record it. Company reps can be very snippety sometimes :wink:, but if they want to record you there is no valid reason for them not to permit you to do the same.


#28

Well, from my experiences with the foreign-owned Optus, the CSG seems to be treated in the same way as the treaty guaranteeing Belgium’s neutrality before the Great War.


#29

Is it not possible to buy a small UPS and connect the modem into that?


#30

Hi all.

I would like to raise three issues which I have not seen raised.

  1. At present, it is possible to get priority service if a member of the household has a life threatening health issue. At present if the phone line goes down, for example with Telstra these designated numbers go to the front of the queue for resolution/repair etc. In the meantime the designated occupant with the illness gets issued with a mobile phone. This is useful assuming mobile reception is present and adequate, but better than nothing.
    What will happen to these people if there is a power outage or other fault under the NBN?
  2. The reason the Federal Government opened up the telecommunications market was to promote competition because that would improve outcomes & provide choice for customers.
    Is this not the reverse situation? Are we not being forced back into a monopoly under NBN? Therefore based on the previous argument, this will deteriorate outcomes for customers?
  3. Finally, is the CSG considered a statutory right? If it is, it can not be taken away. I remember a long time ago, I believe that Telstra wanted to remove the CSG, but were forced to maintain it by the Federal Government because it was deemed to be critical to providing telecommunications services to Australians. Have things changed so much that telecommunications are no longer seen as critical by the Federal Governent?

#31

It is not a viable option as the Node requires mains power as well to run it. So if the power goes out in your area you lose all connections, both phone and internet. This is why all the other types other than Satellite and FTTP suck, well satellite sucks for another reason but if you have power like a UPS you can remain somewhat connected. We were sold a Furphy dressed up as an Luxury Ocean liner or maybe it was the Titanic.

As Telstra provided phones over the copper network rather than as an Internet connected technology the CSG applied to them as it did to any other provider who supplied the home/business phone over copper. CSG could be voluntarily waived if the provider supplied some “extra value/novelty” to mostly VOIP packages. So yes things have really begun to change as there will be no copper network and all calls from fixed home/business phones will be by VOIP. My argument is that as VOIP has become the service that the CSG needs to be amended to account for this change as the VOIP products are no longer a novel product and are in fact the mainstream product.

I don’t think the Government of today really cares about the everyday people’s telecommunications, we keep slipping down the international internet speed rankings and they keep telling us how great the NBN is, meanwhile the rest of the world use us as a cautionary tale of what not to do.


#32

Hi @meltam,

You raise some really good points here.

  1. Priority Assistance is set up to give expedited repair and install time frames for people with life threatening health issues. Telcos that don’t offer this protection are required by law to inform you of a provider which does.

  2. On the competition front the NBN is designed to prevent anti-competitive vertical integration (where the wholesaler was also the retailer). The ACCC found that Telstra had been exploiting its ownership of the wholesale network to harm its retail competitors. However, the current NBN model doesn’t solve problems caused by a natural monopoly. By having no national competitors at the wholesale level there is little incentive to compete on service. This is exactly why legislated protections like the CSG need to be boosted.

  3. The CSG is a statutory right, but it only covers a standard telephone service (which is tech neutral by the way, the key point here is that it is capable of voice communication), also there are built in waivers (although not for Telstra). Telstra has constantly been trying to get out of its obligations here.

You’re spot on about telecommunications being an essential service. Given the ongoing competition issues at the wholesale level it’s hard to see how services are going to perform to community expectations without a legislated standard.


#33

Telstra does get quite a bit of money from the other telcos to fund its Universal Service Obligation. Of course, those rules keep a-changin’ too.


#34

Given that “a standard telephone service, that is technology neutral” is rapidly disappearing (as standard telephone service ceases within 18 months of NBN in any area) what is going to replace the CSG?
We really need a guarantee for a voice-quality call service that works even when there is no mains electricity.
… no I am not talking about a guarantee for data communications via mobile phones; but I am talking about a guarantee to be able to make and receive voice calls via mobile phone networks within residential areas and commercial areas.

I am less than 35 km from the GPO in a state capital city and my mobile phone service provider (“You should have called, Chucky”) is trying to sell an antenna system for remote & rural areas to try to counter their poor service for voice calls.


#35

Worryingly, it appears that the CSG is going to be rendered obsolete by the actions of government and NBNCo.

I suspect it will take a lot of noise for anything to be done about this, and it needs to be kept on the radar as the likely current response is “it’ll all be fine once everyone has the NBN”. Which is wrong.

Is there an official Choice position on ensuring the CSG into the future, @XavierOHalloran?


#36

I wonder if anyone can fix this - the horse is already across the next valley. I’d not be surprised if the whole erasing of the CSG was planned by both sides right from the start because they knew it could no longer be (feasibly) done, ie ‘without effort and planning’.

Theres a lot of talk on the subject - none particilarly hopeful - I found this one amusing …

https://conradilaw.com.au/general/the-mythical-telephone-customer-service-guarantee/


#37

Nothing official @postulative. I know the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has been doing a lot of the running on this issue. They’re always on the lookout for good case studies and feedback on policy if you’ve got some.


#38

Thanks for the link. I left a longish comment on their site about the CSG (or rather lack thereof)


#39

Well, here’s a story. Several years ago the ACMA centralised certain revenue-related functions, including calculation of eligible revenue. I joined a new team (I was second in the door) that was to do this work, and we soon found that the processes were… not quite as sound as one had hoped. That is, we did not have clear legal advice on some of the legacy decisions.

The way forward? Get that advice, and get it right! In the meantime, though, we had a couple of hundred Eligible Revenue Returns to review from all licensed telecommunications carriers. How could we make sure that review was consistent?

I know - let’s get one person to do the lot! And so I spent months poring over financial statements, looking at what the carriers said they had earned, what they said was related to telecommunications activity, and what they said was “nope, nothing to see here”.

I loved that job :grinning: - but the field has changed enormously since then and my ears are old and bent. Of course, if ACCAN wants (and can afford) a policy officer who thinks they have a clue and can do a really good ‘outraged’, I’m there!

EDIT: P.S. I really got up the noses of one of the biggest players in the industry. I think they were muttering something about lawyers at 20 paces or some such.


#40

Agree the horse is already in the next valley and possibly already dead!

Again we have a change in situation that treats customers in the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney etc with advantage and those in the less urban areas less so. Perhaps the CSG is now long dead like the dodo or Tasmanian Tiger. If so it is of our own doing.

The original copper network that linked all of Australia was delivered equally to nearly every one. We also enjoyed the same level of service and support. Local calls where a fixed cost and we all paid for distance calls on a similar basis. It all came through a tax payer shared cost solution. The PMG Dept. The NBN is not delivering an equivalent replacement! A CSG is not part of it’s mandate? What happened to the country sharing the costs (subsidiising) of critical infrastructure so that we were all given the same access to services.

Noted the numerous technical considerations that make the current form of CSG impossible to deliver. The suggestions or hints that the current approach of retailers is to induce customers to accept the waiver is also my experience. It was put to me that as the retailer does not own the connection (the NBN does) they can’t guarantee the connection no matter what I ask for! But then neither will the NBN contract with me as a customer. The outcome we are discussing is in my view by design. IE deliberate and is being achieved with the full knowledge of the current federal minister and government and their predecessors whose hands lay upon the NBN. Some might argue it might simply be due more to ignorance. There is no horse so why even raise the topic. I’m sort of happy - see following.

That the NBN is far from reliable is perhaps why the communities in my area (Sunshine Coast hinterland) will be able to keep our copper connections. For phone only? Same for many other less urban areas.

THIS MAY BE PARTLY BECAUSE THE nbn CAN’T GUARANTEE the service in an area prone to bush fires. And with mobile towers for those that can get mobile reliably also subject to the same risk - both mobile accessible areas and those without mobile coverage still need emergency coverage that is reliable. Buried cables work great.

How did we get here? The NBN worked out that if there are less than a thousand or so in a small town they can save much by linking us to the wireless NBN. In many of these areas the NBN was needing to build towers anyway for the near rural customers, so why waste a good tower. You can reuse the same towers for the nearby towns. Further once you have a few more towers in an area the NBN saves more by not running any fibre backbones to connect the towers. They simply bounce all the data from one to the next until it arrives somewhere there is a fibre node or link. No need to comment in detail on the stupidity of the solution in respect of limitations in band width, service quality (long ping times), or conflict and congestion at peak usage times in the day

Unwittingly the local communities may have made the outcome worse. Many of the towers which were opposed by the local community and council on visual amenity grounds are now to be built in less intrusive locations - surrounded in instances by bush land. Often in bush fire hazard zones. There is simply no way you could expect a CSG given your local tower might be burnt out for months.