Australian consumers are failing to understand ISP and mobile offerings on the market, as regulatory bodies have yet to consider telecommunications as an essential service.
At the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network’s (ACCAN) conference in Sydney, Dr Paul Harrison from Deakin University revealed findings from his report — entitled Seeking Straight Answers: Consumer Decision-Making in Telecommunication — that reform must take place for the industry to move forward.
“Just like electricity, gas and public transport, telecommunications must be viewed as an essential service and government has to view communication through the eyes of consumers rather than business,” Harrison said.
“To simply wait for the next tidal wave of complaints would simply be unacceptable.”
The report, conducted in conjunction with ACCAN, was based on the responses of 22 participants who were looking to purchase a new telecommunications product, and a further 517 people who were presented with sales scenarios to examine their response to bundles and pricing.
Pointing to statistics from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Harrison said a 35 per cent increase in new complaints about the industry was made between January and March this year, costing consumers large amounts of time and money.
“The growth in complaints to the TIO in the last three years provides some support to the argument that at the very least, consumers aren’t happy with the service they are provided or the service that they expect to be provided with,” he said.
“The 2011 Australian Consumer Survey found that 40 per cent of those surveyed had made a complaint about their mobile phone service in the past two years.
“On average, respondents who took action spent an average 23 hours, and $153 to resolve these issues.
Harrison said the results showed that many Australians lack knowledge about smartphone plans in particular, despite these devices being greatly used by a large number of people.
“If we want to participate in society, communicate with families and friends, and even government in some instances, it is simply an essential product,” he said.
Senator Stephen Conroy addressed the conference earlier in the day, saying that the telco industry will continue to be hounded by watchdog groups like the TIO to provide better customer service.
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