New Zealand’s three main mobile operators have agreed to provide more information and tools to support consumer choice.
“Last year we challenged mobile operators to make it easier for consumers to compare and choose the best plan for them. Since then, we’ve worked collaboratively to agree three key measures that will significantly improve outcomes for consumers,” said Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson.
Under commitments outlined in an open letter published by the Commission today, the three mobile operators will:
• provide at least 12 months’ usage and spend information to their customers
• provide an annual usage and spending summary to their customers including a prompt to consider whether they are on the right plan
• promote the development of comparison tools including a prospective consumer data right (CDR) to make it easier for customers to compare plans and providers.
“Consumers want easy access to their information so they can choose the best provider and plan – and they want tools to help them do that – so this is a big step in the right direction for competition and consumer choice,” said Mr Gilbertson.
As a result of these commitments, by the end of 2021, the Commission expects that consumers will gain access to 12 months’ usage information in an easy-to-follow format, receive an annual summary of their usage and spend with a prompt to make sure they are on the right plan, and have access to a comparison tool to help them compare and choose.
“This is the first initiative in the Commission’s new drive to improve retail service quality in telecommunications. We’ve worked with industry to identify improvements that will make a real difference for consumers. There is more work to do in this space but I’m really delighted that we are off to such a positive start,” said Mr Gilbertson.
Changes to the Telecommunications Act in 2018 gave the Commission powers to improve retail service quality (RSQ) including customer service, faults, installation, contracts, product disclosure, billing, switching, service performance, speed and availability.
These provisions direct the Commission to monitor RSQ and make that information available in a way that informs consumer choice. They also give the ability to review industry RSQ codes, provide guidelines to the industry on RSQ matters, and create Commission RSQ codes. The provisions also require the Commission to review industry dispute resolution schemes at least once every three years.
A Consumer Data Right (CDR) is a way for consumers to securely share their service usage data with trusted third parties, such as a comparison service or a rival mobile operator. CDRs have been introduced in several other jurisdictions - such as the United Kingdom and Australia - thereby enabling consumers to share data with suppliers of innovative products and services, with the aim of securing better deals in markets such as retail banking and energy.
In the Commission’s view, a CDR could provide significant benefits for consumers and the wider New Zealand economy. It could give individuals and businesses access to a wider range of products and services, reduce search and switch costs, facilitate competition, encourage innovation, increase productivity and help build the digital economy.