Monday, June 24, 2024

Telcos need to improve transparency says ComCom

New draft Guidelines issued by the Commerce Commission would require telecommunications providers to be more transparent about their prices and coverage so that Kiwi consumers can make better comparisons and choices.  

Telecommunications Commissioner, Tristan Gilbertson says mobile coverage maps are inconsistent between providers and difficult for consumers to compare. 

“Coverage differences matter – especially for rural consumers or people travelling or commuting. Knowing what real-world coverage they can expect from different providers and technologies is important – especially with 5G roll-out and competition heating up,” he said.

Mr Gilbertson says he wants providers to standardise their maps – to make it easier for consumers to understand and compare coverage between providers in different areas – and stand behind their coverage claims when things go wrong.

“When consumers run into real world coverage problems – compared with what’s presented in computer generated coverage maps – they should be able to walk away from their service without penalty.”

In addition to tackling coverage, the draft Guidelines also require providers to include a monthly average price in their broadband and mobile advertising to make it easier for consumers to compare offers.  

“Consumers find it difficult to navigate different combinations of billing terms, discounts, and promotions. We want providers to cut through the complexity by disclosing upfront how much consumers will pay each month for a particular deal,” Mr Gilbertson says.

“Our work shows that consumers find it easier to shop around when they know how much they’ll be paying on average each month – so disclosing this upfront will reduce uncertainty and enable more meaningful comparison and choice.”

The draft Guidelines also propose:

  • disclosing the total minimum cost to consumers of an offer over the term of the contract as part of the sign-up process;
  • standardising the approach to letting customers know about contract early termination fees at sign-up and on their bills; and
  • making standardised offer summaries available so that consumers can easily compare what they’ll get between providers

“Currently, most offers don’t specify the total cost over the term of the contract or clearly set out what would have to be paid if the consumer needs to exit. We think it’s important consumers have this information from the outset so they know exactly what they’re signing up to.” 

Mr Gilbertson says the Commission has consulted extensively over the past year to identify the areas where consumers need better information to enable more meaningful comparison and choice, as well as the best way of getting that information from providers.

“Comparison and choice are at the heart of competition – so we want to see providers stepping up to give consumers the information they need to make more confident and informed decisions.”

The Commission is now seeking views from industry and consumer group stakeholders on the draft guidelines.

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