Hold the phone

It’s not a good idea to recommend service providers – every one is a dud in someone’s eyes – but here’s a handy resource to winnow out the telcos.


Last weekend I tried to ring my Mum and the phone was engaged. I tried again a couple of times and each time she was still engaged. Bloody retirees having a life, I thought.


During the week I got an email from her, explaining that the phone was on the blink again and if I needed to call her, please ring her on the mobile.

It turned out that they had decided to switch ISP (internet service provider) but at the same time decided to go for a new phone deal.


Only the deal turned out to be that their landline worked for ADSL internet service, but their telephone number kept getting switched off. Apparently it was going to take the technician a week to investigate.


Mum was cross, but was also cross with me that I hadn’t recommended her a better provider.


I reminded Mum that I don’t recommend service providers. My experience is that they are all bad, but everyone has a different experience and opinion.

If you ask around there are people that will swear by Telstra, others will swear at Telstra. The same goes for Optus, Virgin, Vodaphone, AAPT etc and the hundreds of other telecommunication companies and ISPs.


The problem is that everyone’s recommendation is biased to their own experience, not the experience of the market at large. So the question is, “how do you pick a great service provider?” – a question that I have avoided dealing with for the last 10 years or so.


But this week I came up with an answer.


I got in the mail a newsletter from the office of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. In it they talked about how they were making good use of taxpayer’s money, but among the notes I saw it mentioned a summary of their complaints statistics for the year.


So I went to the website, and there it was in all its glory. At the TIO Annual Report 2006/2007. Part 6 of the report listed a summary of all complaints against members.


Sure, the report only covers members of the scheme, but then again who would use someone that’s not a member? And it’s not standardised, so you can compare different sized companies pro-rata. Also it only covers the numbers of complaints and not the number of issues included in the complaint, but it makes for fascinating reading and makes the recommendation process easier.


For example, complaints about the bigger telecommunications carriers (approximately): AAPT, 6000; Hutchison, 11,000; Optus, 23,000; Telstra, 38,000; Vodaphone, 5000.


It also has some really nice drilling down on the types of complaints, categorising them by lines such as Billing, Faults, Privacy etc.


All-in-all a nice resource for the intelligent buyer. Now I still won’t make any recommendations, but I will say to people, when you find a deal you find attractive, why don’t you look at the TIO site and see how that company compares to its competitors. Helping you with the caveat (beware) part of “caveat emptor”.


Mum’s still cross with me though.



Brendan Lewis is the founder of two IT service firms, Edion and Verve IT, and executive director of the Churchill Club.

To read more Brendan Lewis blogs, click here.



David writes: Interesting table. I have had over six months of billing problems with Optus and if I hadn’t taken the trouble to try to understand their opaque monthly invoice, would have paid many hundreds of dollars too much. Interesing that in the TIO table, Optus had 3145 billing complaints vs. Telstra 4404. I’m sure this is not a reflection of their relative market share.



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments