Dramatic surge in telco complaints

Communications Alliance concerned over rise in complaints lodged with TIO

Complaints about telcos surged in the second half of 2016, according to figures released today by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The TIO reported a 33.8 per cent year-on-year increase in complaints lodged with it by consumers and small businesses. Between 1 July and 31 December last year, 65,970 complaints were made to the TIO — compared to 49,318 in the second half of 2015.

Complaints about Internet services, which represented 37 per cent of all complaints, soared by 53.6 per cent.

More than 35 per cent of complaints were about mobile phone services — with mobile-related complaints up 18.8 per cent on the same period in 2015, the TIO said.

Some 27 per cent of complaints related to landlines (up 32 per cent). The TIO figures don’t capture all complaints about telecommunications services: Only those lodged directly with it after attempts to resolve problems with a telco have failed.

John Stanton, the chief executive of telco industry body Communications Alliance, said that industry was working hard to combat increased complaints.

“Clearly, more remains to be done and Communications Alliance is working closely with its members on these challenges,” the CEO said in a statement.

“We have seen five years of falling complaint levels as a result of concerted industry action — dropping complaint volumes by close to 50 per cent — so the recent setbacks reported by the TIO are a matter of serious concern and are being addressed.”

Stanton said that the NBN rollout and associated “additional implementation challenges” had contributed to rising complaints, although he noted that the growth in NBN-related complaints is slower than the growth in connections on the network.

There were 7512 NBN-related complaints made to the TIO in the second half of 2016, up 6.8 per cent on the first half of 2016 (7033 complaints) but up 117.5 per cent on the second half of 2015. However, NBN connections grew almost 225 per cent in between the second half of 2015 and the second half of 2016.

In a statement NBN said that the TIO figures do not distinguish between faults on its network and those on the network infrastructure of retail service providers and that there has been a 30 per cent drop in complaints when adjusted for the total number of activated premises.

“With about 30,000 households and businesses being connected to services over the NBN network every week, an increase in the individual number of issues reported to the TIO reflects the acceleration of the rollout, however from an NBN perspective, we need to continue to improve the consumer experience as we further ramp up,” chief customer officer John Simon said in a statement.

“That is exactly why NBN is working in collaboration with retail service providers to better educate consumers and business owners about how to get the best experience possible from their internet connection while also improving end to end processes.”

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