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Regulatory authority recognises improvements in the telecom industry: sector increasingly customer-friendly

“There is very good news for 2015: the conciliation cases declined by 38% compared with 2014 to total 2,409 procedures and reach a historical low. Last year we stepped up efforts to work more closely with providers. This has clearly been a significant factor contributing to the noticeable increase in customer-friendliness and willingness to make concessions in the telecom industry last year,” announced Johannes Gungl, Managing Director of the RTR Telecommunications and Postal Services Division. Mr Gungl was speaking at the presentation of the 2015 Activity Report of the conciliation body. “Another indicator of increasing customer-friendliness is the average settlement rate in conciliation procedures. At 72% this figure has never been higher. This means that 72% of the procedures we initiate are resolved with the customer’s consent,” Gungl went on to explain.

Disputes continue to focus on content services

Seven hundred and forty-one procedures or roughly one-third of cases in 2015 concerned content services. “Even though this was the most common subject of disputes in procedures, the number of cases fell heavily in 2015 and continues to fall this year,” Gungl stated. “Apparently our appeal for self-regulation was successful, so that providers have honoured the ‘code of conduct’ they have given themselves and improved their procedures, for instance by enhancing transparency through clearer customer communication. It remains to be seen whether this will be a lasting trend,” Gungl noted.

Contract complaints take first place

Grievances concerning contracts, an issue that was second in the 2015 complaint statistics, already moved into first place in the first quarter of 2016. “Contract issues represent a highly varying set of problems, ranging from uncertainties concerning the agreed terms of service to the terms governing termination of the agreement,” Gungl explained. “In this regard we also try to take preventive action. For instance, the customer loyalty programmes of the major providers were closely evaluated last year and many of the items subsequently improved.”

Net neutrality and roaming: challenges for all

2016 has already brought certain positive changes for consumers. Porting mobile numbers has become easier and cheaper and now costs only EUR 10. The maximum notice period for terminating a contract has been limited to one month (i.e. the last day of the following month). “The rules for net neutrality and implementing the new roaming rates will prove interesting – both for operators and for consumer protection organisations,” Gungl stated in closing.
The Activity Report of the conciliation body is published (in German) on the RTR website at www.rtr.at/de/inf/STR_Bericht2015.