New ACMA Research Released on Telco’s Contracts & Informed Consumer Consent

Australia ( March 30, 2011

New ACMA Research Released on Telco's Contracts & Informed Consumer Consent

New ACMA Research Released on Telco's Contracts & Informed Consumer Consent

Australian consumers can find it difficult to provide what they consider to be fully informed consent when signing up to telecommunications contracts, according to Australian Communications and Media Authority research released today.

Community research on informed consent was commissioned to inform the ACMA of community attitudes towards the way consent is currently sought and ways it could be improved for a better consumer experience.

The research highlights a “core principle” of informed consent from a consumer’s perspective: full information must be offered in an accessible manner and at the time of agreement.

The report indicates that people want to take responsibility for protecting themselves, particularly where substantial finances are involved; detailed information is required of the individual; and when the brand or the company is not well known.

Consumers identified appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle consent in a number of situations. Contracts with telecommunication providers were the most commonly cited example of where consumers were called on to provide consent.

‘Australians are aware of the potential risks of providing their consent online, on the phone or face to face and, interestingly but reassuringly, do feel a responsibility to be properly informed prior to giving their consent,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘However, they admitted they do not always take the time or make a proper assessment to fully inform themselves prior to giving their consent.

‘Overall, expectations in regards to actually providing informed consent for telecommunications contracts were very low,’ Mr Chapman said. ‘People felt they had no power in the consent arrangement, and often felt rushed or pressured.

‘It’s clear that consumers want telco suppliers to abide by the core principle of informed consent: full information must be offered in an accessible manner and at the time of agreement.’

Research participants suggested ways that communications providers could improve the customer experience and assist consumers to give informed consent, as well as practical measures individuals could take to ensure they are properly and adequately informed when providing consent.

The research included scenarios such as completing a survey or competition online or by mail, and posting personal material online such as commentary, updates and photographs on social networking sites.

Community research on informed consent also examines consumer awareness and attitudes towards how personal information is used by third parties; consenting online; consenting over the phone and face to face; consent involving minors; and the length of time consent is valid for.

The research findings are intended to provide the ACMA with a rich understanding when considering informed consent issues in the future and when providing advice to industry and other stakeholders on consumer expectations. These findings add further important insight to the ACMA’s work on its Reconnecting the Customer public inquiry and the review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code, especially in regards to the consumer perspective of “adequate community standards.”

The report can be found on the ACMA website.

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