If you have had problems with your telephone service provider recently, you may have some vague inkling that phone companies have some sort of obligation to provide a working phone line. You might be sure you recall the Government telling us that they were forcing the telephone companies improve their service standards. Indeed, former Telecommunications Minister Senator Conroy issued a statement in 2011, announcing the introduction of the Consumer Service Guarantee:
“Senator Conroy said the instrument would be a safeguard for consumers against poor customer service on the part of the giant telcos.
“The Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard is designed to protect consumers against poor customer service by setting timeframes to be met by service providers for the connection, fault repair, and keeping of appointments in relation to standard telephone services,” Senator Conroy said.
If you are an adept googler, you might end up on the ACMA Customer Service Guarantee for phone users Q&A page and see that the CSG remains in place. ACMA says:
What is the Customer Service Guarantee?
The Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) is a standard designed to encourage service improvement and guard against poor service. Phone companies must meet minimum performance requirements for specified services and compensate customers when these are not met.
Which services are covered by the Customer Service Guarantee Standard?
The CSG Standard covers the supply of standard telephone services, including voice grade services used to connect to the Internet. Enhanced call-handling features that require activation by a phone company are also covered, including call waiting, call forwarding, call barring, calling number display and calling number display blocking. These services are commonly referred to as CSG services.
Phone companies must meet maximum time frames for:
- connection of a CSG service;
- repair of a fault or service difficulty; and
- attending appointments with customer
You beauty – gotcha! you might think. Wait till you get that next uppity “support” person on the line.
Down-hill from there I’m afraid. “Sorry, the CSG doesn’t apply to you as you waived the CSG when you signed on for the service”.
OK – next try – you say OK, but I want to change to your standard CSG phone service.
First they say: “The non-CSG service is an ‘enhanced service’ and is cheaper and that’s why we offer it with a CSG waiver”.
You are wise to that one – you just want a basic phone service that works. Thanks for that, but please just transfer my number over to a basic service delivered over phone line that comes out of my NBN box/phone socket, not voip over the internet.
They are ready for that one: “I’m sorry, we can’t port (ie transfer) your number over to that service”.
Finally, exasperated you say: Fine – forget my existing number – just give me your standard basic CSG phone line prodcuct!!
Only after their next response, does the reality behind the myth start to dawn on you: “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any CSG service available for your location”.
One last try, you say: “Well, I’m straight off the Telecommunications Ombudsman to complain because you have a Consumer Service Guarantee obligation. I know, ‘cos I read about it on the ACMA web site”. That’ll put the fear of god into them!
Afraid not. They’ll happily give you the web link to the Ombudsmen and ask: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
You see, the CSG is not real. It is a myth. It is a cruel hoax played on people who bother to try to find out whether they have any rights when dealing with huge corporate oligopolies.
I’ve had a look at the Telecommunications (Customer Service Guarantee) Standard 2011, which supposedly implements the CSG. Sure enough, it talks a lot about the CSG. It imposes minimum standards for CSG services and provides consumers with the right to monetary compensation when those standards are breached. There is provision for the grant of temporary exemptions for small telecommunications carriers and where there is a widespread failure (eg when someone digs up the NBN cable), but that’s fair enough and should apply most of the time.
But nowhere in that “Standard”, does it actually say the phone company has to offer a CSG service!! So they don’t – simple as that.
If you are feeling particularly masochistic some time, or have a perverse sense of fun, try ringing each of the telcos and ask: How much does your CSG phone service cost?
I haven’t bothered. To satisfy my perverse sense of fun I’ll send off a complaint to the Telecommunications Ombudsman. I’ll let you know what they say (I know already what that will be – but why spoil the fun).