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Comcom outlines proposals to improve telco product and provider comparisons

Comcom outlines proposals to improve telco product and provider comparisons

TUANZ CEO welcomes recommendations and will be "responding positively".

Tristan Gilbertson (Telecommunications Commissioner)

Tristan Gilbertson (Telecommunications Commissioner)

Credit: Supplied

The Commerce Commission is seeking feedback on proposals to make it easier for consumers to compare telco products and providers.

Telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said the difficulty of comparing plans and providers is a major factor behind customer dissatisfaction and complaints. 

This needed to change so consumers could more readily make comparisons to get the best deals.

The consultation, therefore, focuses on making offers, costs, contracts and coverage more readily comparable between competing mobile and broadband providers.

“Competition between different technologies and providers is delivering more choice than ever before – but it’s not always easy to compare different plans and providers on a like-for-like basis,” Gilbertson said.

“We don’t want consumers signing up for one provider’s offer because it wasn’t easy for them to compare it with other offers that might have been better for them."

The regulator is proposing a more standardised approach to marketing information so consumers can make more confident choices.

The commission wants to see upfront disclosure of average monthly cost of services, the cost of energy when bundled with broadband, the total costs of contracts and, in the case of mobile coverage, information to provide a clear view of the service they could expect with different providers at their location.

The commission also wants providers to produce standardised contract summaries to make service comparisons easier and a standardised way to calculate and report on customer numbers to ensure more accurate information on market competition.

“We think these improvements to telecommunications marketing will enable consumers to make more meaningful comparisons and informed choices," Gilbertson said. 

"We welcome feedback from everyone, including industry, consumer groups and consumers, so we can start putting the right solutions in place.”

Telecommunications Users Association (TUANZ) CEO Craig Young said he was pleased to see the commission listening to the issues raised. 

In 2021 TUANZ commissioned research which addressed the issue of product disclosure and its impact on competition.

Researchers the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) undertook a review of inertia and complexity in the NZ market and at possible solutions. 

Craig Young (TUANZ)Credit: Supplied
Craig Young (TUANZ)

"Some of the ideas are those that the commission is now looking to implement in the NZ market," Young said. 

"The report includes recommending simple guidelines on how to present information, updating the current product disclosure regime and holding providers accountable for the output of their choices and so we will be responding positively to the Commission's paper recommending that the actions are implemented." 

The commission’s paper highlighted a number of areas relating to the way providers inform consumers about the products and services they market, said Telecommunications Carriers' Forum CEO Paul Brislen. 
 
“Making sure consumers have a clear understanding of the products and services they buy is essential and we fully support the Commission’s work in this regard," he said. 

"The paper raises a number of areas for input and we will be seeking to better understand how we can move this work forward in the New Year.”

Submissions are due by 7 December.

In May, the regulator welcomed a new set of broadband marketing codes developed by telco group the Telecommunications Carriers' Forum to help consumers make informed choices about services.

Gilbertson said there were three key benefits for consumers, including the right for consumers to walk away from their broadband plan or provider without penalty when a service materially fails to deliver what was advertised.

Speed indications in advertising must also be based on independent testing rather than using "up to" or theoretical maximum speeds.

Sufficient notice of any change to a copper service must also be provided so consumers are not rushed into making decisions about a replacement.


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