How Critical Information Summaries Can Make You A Smarter Phone Buyer

From today, telcos are obliged to provide Critical Information Summaries to customers for their products. But what exactly is a Critical Information Summary?

We've previously covered how the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code is forcing telcos to be more upfront about actual charges as well as how to make the most of one of the first bit of the code to kick in, unit pricing.

From today, the next phase of the TCP Code kicks in, with companies obliged to offer a two page Critical Information Summary (CIS) on all new contract products, either for free at the point of purchase or via their web sites. The summaries must include pricing, all inclusions and exclusions and access to information about roaming costs and dispute resolution procedures, although from the look of the sample CIS on ACMA's web site, it appears that links to web pages may suffice for dispute resolution and roaming cost issues.

Still, the CIS can be a valuable tool in comparing plans like for like, especially as more MNVOs come on board with "unlimited" plans, something that the ACMA is particularly prickly about. Making information easier to simply access is always a good thing, but it won't do you a lick of good if you don't actually read it and make sure that you're aware of the limitations of a particular plan. Stating, for example roaming costs upfront is a double edged sword in this regard. If you're told upfront what it will cost you to roam from Uzbekistan, you can't reasonably complain if you're hit with hefty data roaming charges upon your return.

The CIS phase isn't the end of the TCP code provisions, either. CIS will tell you what your usage limitations are, but the requirement to offer tools to help you track that usage isn't compulsory for larger telcos until September 2013. Smaller telcos have until September 2014 to implement those features. The ACMA also notes that the "the new industry code is, in the first instance, self regulatory, (but) any non-compliance gives the ACMA a trigger to direct service providers to comply with code obligations."

Cutting the fine print: New information tool for telecommunications consumers [ACMA]

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