Thursday, June 13, 2024

Commission amends code to boost consumer protection

The Commerce Commission has reviewed and amended the Copper Withdrawal Code (the Code) in a bid to better protect the interests of Kiwi consumers.

The Code sets out the minimum requirements that Chorus, the provider of the national copper network, must meet before it can stop supplying copper services to individual consumers.

Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson says the Code plays an important part in ensuring a smooth transition from old copper-based services to newer technologies.

“The Code contains a range of protections that require Chorus to proactively guide consumers step-by-step through the process of withdrawing copper and transitioning to a replacement technology,” he said.

Key protections under the Code are that: 

  • Chorus can only withdraw copper in areas where fibre is available (and must continue to provide copper services everywhere else);
  • Chorus must give consumers at least six months’ notice in writing (and two further reminder notices) that their copper service is to be withdrawn;
  • Chorus must work with consumers to ensure they understand the copper withdrawal process and what fibre services are available to them;
  • Chorus must make sure fibre is installed (if a consumer chooses fibre as their replacement service within the notice period) before copper is switched-off.

Mr Gilbertson said the Commission has looked into how well the Code has been working since it came into force in March 2021.

“Overall, our review found strong consensus across industry and consumer stakeholders that the Code is operating effectively, but that there are opportunities for improvement that we’re addressing through these amendments.”

“The amended Code reinforces the key consumer protection requirements of the original Code, provides additional clarity in a number of areas, and gives Chorus more flexibility in terms of how it delivers on its obligations. 

“This should improve communication and engagement with consumers, increase certainty for all stakeholders, and allow the process to better accommodate the different needs and requirements of individual consumers going forward,” Mr Gilbertson says.

The amended Code comes into force on 5 April 2024 and will apply to the approximately 200,000 copper lines in fibre areas that Chorus plans to progressively withdraw in coming years. The Commission will continue to monitor Chorus’ compliance with the Code.

To help consumers choose which technology might be best for them, the Commission releases quarterly reports designed to provide independent information on performance across different providers, plans and technologies. These reports, derived from the Measuring Broadband New Zealand programme, can be found here.

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