More small businesses have complained to the telecommunications ombudsman about their phone and internet connections over the past year than any time since 2012, according to data released today.
With complaints on an upward trajectory, business founders tell SmartCompany that given the importance of online communications for running a business, having your own back-up plan for faulty connections is now critical.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s (TIO) annual report into complaints made about phone and internet over the past 12 months reveals complaints about telecommunications connections across the country increased by 41% over the past year.
More than 158,000 complaints were made to the ombudsman in the 12 months to June 30, with internet complaints outranking landline and mobile concerns for the first time.
In a statement on the release of the report, Ombudsman Judi Jones says the scope of complaints show the frustrations caused when consumers and businesses are not able to complete work and life tasks online, given “sharing high quality videos immediately, holding an online meeting or watching Netflix on the way home, is now the norm and part of our daily routine”.
Complaints about customer service and service faults topped the worries of small business consumers when it came to their phone and internet services. The 18,789 complaints lodged with the TIO about small business services in 2016-17 is a 31% jump on last year’s numbers.
Forty-six percent of the small business complaints, or 8784, related to the customer service businesses received when dealing with telcos, while 41%, or 7854, were about service faults.
“Almost crippling” interruptions
Annex Products co-founder Rob Ward, says he has seen first hand the intense frustrations caused by service issues when trying to get a company’s internet connected
But Ward says he has not complained to the ombudsman about his experience because at the time, the company “did not think this would get us internet any faster”.
Last month, the multimillion-dollar company, which sells the popular Quad Lock mount and case products for cyclists and has customers around the world, moved offices. It organised for an internet connection to be hooked up at the new site 30 days prior to the office relocation.
Despite acting on the advice of connection timeframes from provider TPG, Ward says upon arrival at the new office, the provider moved the installation date back by 30 days, meaning the company was staring down the possibility of two months of “shit internet”, he says.
Annex Products ended up switching to another smaller connection business that could connect the service within a week, and Ward says the runaround of trying to contact the provider and work out the next steps for the business ended up costing them.
“The interruption to our day to day business was significant, expensive and at point almost crippling,” he says.
SmartCompany has contacted TPG for comment on possible delay times for installations. The company responded that the TIO report has raised a range of complaints about services with a range of providers.
In terms of timeframes, TPG observed that the NBN is in control of national broadband network installation services, and there have been some issues on installation times for those services, given the speed and complexity of the roll-out.
Have a backup plan
Founder of online police check platform National Crime Check, Martin Lazarevic, says his business has a game plan for any internet outages, given internet dropouts ultimately result in his business not being able to deliver its service to customers.
“We have had numerous internet connectivity outages, however, we thankfully have connectivity redundancy strategies where we are able to swap to an independent 4G solution that reduces the impact,” he says.
The Australian business community now relies heavily on internet services to complete the most simple elements of their jobs, and Lazarevic advises other businesses to have a backup internet solution for times when your usual connection might drop out.
“Whilst we can’t control the telcos, we can control having a backup solution,” he says.
“Businesses should consider having a back up 4G standby system in light of these outages becoming more frequent.”
According to the TIO report, South Australia saw the biggest increase in overall telecommunications complaints over the past year, with a 51% increase in consumers and businesses calling the ombudsman.
This was followed by Western Australia, with a 49% increase, and New South Wales with a 43% increase.
While regional phone and internet connections have long-plagues small businesses, the data on this year’s complaints suggest those in capital cities still have plenty of gripes, with Sydney topping the list for small business complaints last year, and Melbourne coming in at number three.
Read the full TIO complaints report here.
The top 10 postcodes for small business phone and internet complaints, 2016-17:
1. 2000 – Sydney, NSW
2. 4870 – Cairns, QLD
3. 3000 – Melbourne, VIC
4. 2250 – Central Mangrove, NSW
5. 3175 – Dandenong, VIC
6. 2170 – Liverpool, NSW
7. 4350 – Toowoomba, QLD
8. 2560 – Campbelltown, NSW
9. 2148 – Blacktown, NSW
10. 2750 – Penrith, NSW