Ombudsman Simon Cohen released the 2012 TIO Annual Report on Monday 29 October 2012. Consumers made 193,702 new telco complaints in 2011-12, a decrease of two per cent on the previous year. There has been a trend of reduced complaints from April 2012, with the last quarter of the financial year being the quietest for almost two years. This trend has continued into the new financial year.
The Annual Report highlights that complaints about mobile phones have continued to increase, with 122,834 new complaints in 2011-12, up nine per cent on the previous year. These complaints have doubled in the past three years, and two out of three complaints now made to the TIO are about mobile phones. The increase reflects the rising use of mobile phones generally, and smart phones in particular.
Poor coverage and the quality of information given to consumers at the point of sale were common issues for mobile service. But it is billing and credit management issues that increased substantially. Issues include:
- financial overcommitment due to inadequate spend management tools (15,752 issues – double the number of the previous year)
- disputes over the total amount of a bill (13,943 issues – 33 per cent increase)
- disputed internet usage charges (10,556 issues – 150 per cent increase)
- disputed roaming charges (4,186 issues – 69 per cent increase).
“Complaints about unexpectedly high bills and unnecessary financial overcommitment point to the urgent need for strong spend management rules, including those that are included in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code,” Mr Cohen said when releasing the report. “While these rules do not apply until 2013, or in certain cases 2014, it is a positive sign that some service providers have already taken steps to introduce better consumer notifications about high usage.”
The Annual Report includes information about the introduction of conciliation, which has reduced closure rates for Level 2 complaints from 54 to 21 days and reduced the percentage of complaints that require a detailed investigation from 11 per cent to 1 per cent.
The report also highlights some projects the TIO embarked on to keep members informed about news and provide opportunities for them to give feedback to the TIO.
The TIO’s 2012 Annual Report, Preparing for the Future, is available online.