The telecommunications industry must raise its standards in its treatment of consumers or risk increased Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) scrutiny and action, the Commission’s chairman, Graeme Samuel, has warned.

He points to problems such as misleading advertising, unfair contracts and deceptive mobile phone competitions that have been allowed to proliferate by service providers, publishers and carriers, who have turned a blind eye while taking a slice of the profits.

“It is no longer acceptable for carriers to wash their hands of responsibility as operators use their networks to entrap phone company customers with unwanted, expensive and difficult to unwind subscription services,” explains Samuel.

Samuel indicates that the ACCC expects carriers to adopt rigorous standards and procedures in plain language means closing off access to their mobile networks for rogue operators.

Consumer protection issues in telecommunications consistently ranked number one as the sectors most complained about to the ACCC Infocentre, with more than 4000 complaints a year, ranging over a number of types of operators, conduct and telecommunications products and services

The provision of telecommunications services is so important to society and the Australian economy, says Samuel, and consumers should be able to trust their providers, receive high quality customer service and be accurately informed about products and services.

Other concerns included advertising practices, consumers not understanding contracts, including inadvertently signing up to a subscription service, and difficulties with unsubscribing and the complaints handling process.

“The ACCC is drawing a line in the sand – we’re saying to the poor performers, and there are many of them, mend your ways,” asserts Samuel.