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Tougher penalties for phone companies who don't fix phones on time.



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Senator the Hon Helen Coonan Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate

Media Release

Media Contact: Jane McMillan 0438 690 305

www.minister.dcita.gov.au

072/06 28 July 2006

Tougher penalties for phone companies who don’t fix phones on time

Phone companies will have to compensate customers up to $50 per day for every day it takes to repair a telephone fault or if they do not connect a telephone service within the Customer Service Guarantee timeframes, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan, announced today.

This is part of several measures announced by the Minister to toughen up the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) - a crucial consumer safeguard that was introduced by the Howard Government in 1998 to ensure Australian consumers get their phones connected and repaired on time.

“The CSG penalties, which are paid directly to the affected customer, have been increased by 21 per cent. From now on, if someone’s telephone fault is not fixed within the CSG timeframes, they will be paid up to $50 per day for every day it takes to repair the fault,” Senator Coonan said.

“While CSG compliance rates have been consistently above the 90 per cent level deemed satisfactory by ACMA, these changes provide additional incentives for service providers to improve their performance, and give consumers a more appropriate level of compensation if they fail to do so.

“I have also tightened the industry exemption arrangements to ensure that service providers will not be exempt from the CSG timeframes in the case of predictable events.

“There will now be set criteria to clearly define the circumstances under which a provider can claim an exemption, known as a Mass Service Disruption, for unpredictable circumstances such as extreme weather.

“I have directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to implement these new arrangements that will substantially strengthen the CSG.”

A Mass Service Disruption may occur if natural disasters or extreme weather conditions create faults and prevent a service provider from repairing those faults on time. In these circumstances, the CSG timeframes for the connection and repair of services are suspended.

“Service providers will now only be able to claim CSG exemptions because of weather conditions if they meet strict criteria based on standards used by the Bureau of Meteorology,” Senator Coonan said.

The set criteria for extreme weather include objective definitions for events such as heavy rainfall, flash flooding, hail and hazardous winds.

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“For example, service providers claiming a CSG exemption for heavy rainfall must now prove, using documentary evidence, that the rainfall exceeded the 10 year average recurrence interval - that is, an event that would occur, on average, only once in a decade,” Senator Coonan said.

“This measure will also encourage service providers to take reasonable measures to prevent or mitigate outages caused by routine weather events, further improving the services of consumers in areas prone to weather-related outages.”

Full details of the changes are contained in the Telecommunications (Customer Service Guarantee) Direction No. 1 of 1999 (Amendment No. 1 of 2006) available at www.dcita.gov.au/tel/legislation/other_legislative_instruments

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