TIO remains 'busiest ombudsman': ACCAN

Consumer group urges telcos to set target for reducing customer complaints

Telcos are improving but still face too many customer complaints, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

In a speech at the CommsDay Melbourne Congress, ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin urged telcos to set their own targets for reducing the number of complaints. While there are fewer complaints this year to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), people continue to complain about telcos more than other industries, she said.

The TIO received 40,021 new complaints from January to March, down from 52,231 in the same quarter last year. However, the figure was far higher than the 7720 complaints about banks received in the same quarter by the Financial Ombudsman Service, Corbin said.

“Nationally aggregated data from other service sectors like the energy sector are difficult to compare,” she admitted. “But the TIO is generally regarded as one of the busiest ombudsman services in Australia.”

Corbin declined to propose a target for reducing the number of complaints, saying that’s up to the telcos to decide. While ACCAN has criticised enforcement of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code, Corbin praised industry changes to implement the code and other consumer-focussed initiatives.

“There is no doubt in my mind that complaint levels have much further to fall.”

While Corbin asked industry to lead the charge on reducing complaints, she said regulation could be necessary to reduce unexpected costs from mobile in-app purchases.

“There is still more that needs to be done to inform consumers, particularly parents around the traps of in-app purchases,” she said.

“While consumer education is part of the answer, the big app stores of Google and Apple need to take more responsibility for the apps they sell. Many of these apps involve aggressive selling practices targeted at children...”

“We understand regulation has its limitations and can be costly; therefore it will rarely be our first response,” she said.

“However, if it is required we will not shy away from campaigning for additional regulation to ensure consumers are not being misled or taken advantage of.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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