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Best Practice in the Telecommunications Industry

21. December 2004

On 13 December 2004, the Danish Consumer Ombudsman [DCO] issued a guideline concerning best practise in the telecommunications industry. The guideline lays down the principles to be observed by business and trade in connection to price information, customer service and general purchase terms and conditions relating to telecom equipment and telephones.

Constructive negotiations lie behind

The present guideline is the result of constructive negotiations between a number of organisations: the DCO, the Danish NGO Consumer Council and the Danish telecommunications industry, along with the trade organisations Danish Commerce and Service, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Danish Industries, the Danish IT Industry Association, and the Umbrella Organisation for Consumer Electronics in Denmark.

The public authorities, the National IT and Telecom Agency and the Danish Competition Authority, also took part as observers in order to meet the statutory requirements concerning competence allocation.

Thorough groundwork

Over the last year, a joint workgroup consisting of representatives from the telecommunications business and the DCO has been working on an introduction to form the basis for further negotiation.

"I am very satisfied that this new work form has paid off so well", says Hagen Jørgensen. The DCO continues: "It has raised our hope that the introduction of price transparency 1 April 2005 will be all the more smooth, with fewer complaints and unpleasant surprises for the consumers as a likely outcome. And we certainly need that."

Significant improvements

New initiatives number, among other things, a commitment on part of the telephone companies to state the full minimum price on a telephone inclusive of all basic costs. That will be the end of the DKK 1 mobile telephone offers, notorious for not explicitly stating the number of subscription fees and costs related to the purchase.

Advertising

Advertising which include price information must always state all basic costs, fixed or variable, along with terms and conditions of contract, including:

  • The total amount of money to be paid by the consumer in the entire subscription period. The total amount must be quoted and include subscription fees, connection charge and the minimum usage requirement;
  • Variable tariffs, i.e. minute and text tariffs and general minimum call charges;
  • Special terms/restrictions that apply to the offer in question, i.e. whether a fixed subscription comes with the offer and whether the subscription period is fixed by the telephone company. Further, the phone may be SIM-locked;
  • The speed of the Internet connection.

Customer service, terms and conditions of contract

Poor customer service and unintelligible terms and conditions of contract have been the occasion of much criticism and many complaints. The DCO expects that the new guideline will help solving the many problems associated with the telecommunications business, and it also puts a greater emphasis on fair treatment of consumers. This has resulted in the following requirements:

  • Written queries should be answered within a fortnight by the trader;
  • Where a consumer, due to repair of faulty equipment, has to go without his or her telecom equipment or telephone for a period of 10 days or more, the trader should provide the consumer with spare equipment free of charge during that period;
  • Adult consumers should be informed of potential risks arising from purchasing a mobile phone to a child or young person under age;
  • On buying a mobile telephone subscription, the consumer should, to avoid overuse or misuse, be informed about potential balance control services that might come with his or her subscription;
  • If a telephone company has forgotten to charge a consumer an amount of money, the amount of money in question should be collected within 6 months from the due date unless the consumer has been in bad faith.

If you have any queries, please contact:

Jane Frederikke Land
Office of the Danish Consumer Ombudsman
Tel: +45 32 66 92 75
jfl@fs.dk

The guideline will take effect 1 April 2005.

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