Telco complaints on the rise

A new report reveals there has been a 9% increase in new complaints to the telecommunications industry ombudsman, mostly driven by mobile phone service issues.


According to the latest TIO report the ombudsman received 87,264 new complaints between July 1 and December 31 last year, an increase of 6,957 since the first half of 2010.


New complaints about Vodafone were up by 5,370 in the second half of 2010, representing an increase of 96%, due to the company’s poor coverage, long wait times, failure to act on promises and lack of contact with customers.


The increase in new complaints is not confined to Vodafone, with complaints about landlines increasing by almost 5%.


The report reveals that TIO cases included more than 19,000 issues in relation to the failure of telecommunications service providers to keep promises to resolve consumer complaints. That complaint issue has increased by almost 23%.


TIO investigations cases have decreased by 10%, which means more complaints are being resolved without the need for a detailed review, suggesting issues are not serious.


A major concern of the TIO is that many consumers who contact the ombudsman say they are not referred by their phone or internet company, which was an issue in 17,683 of the new complaints registered between July and December 2010.


Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code if a consumer expresses dissatisfaction with the outcome of a provider’s investigation of their complaint that provider is obliged to advise the consumer of their external avenues of recourse, which includes the TIO unless the consumer represents a large business.


“While it is fortunate that dissatisfied consumers are finding the TIO telephone and internet companies can do more to ensure all their customers are aware that there is an independent ombudsman who can receive their complaints and work with both sides for a fair and reasonable result,” the TIO report says.


The Communications Alliance says there has been an improvement in the level of telecommunications industry compliance with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.


According to the alliance figures compiled by the TIO show the number of confirmed breaches of the code fell by 29.1% in the last three months of 2010 compared to the previous quarter.


Alliance chief executive John Stanton says the improved compliance numbers are part of the data collected by the TIO but the TIO has chosen not to include them in its release of the report.


Stanton says the increase of 8.7% in new complaints received during the first six months of the financial year is disappointing.


He says complaint levels are still lower than the corresponding period in the previous year and need to be viewed in the context of the continuing growth in telecommunications.


“The number of telecommunications services used by Australians increased by almost 3.3 million from 2009 to 2010, so the volume of complaints-per-service has continued to fall,” he says.


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