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Mobile phone complaints rise against overall decrease in telco complaints during 2011-12

29 October 2012

Consumers made 193,702 new telco complaints in 2011-12, a decrease of two per cent on the previous year, according to the 2012 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) Annual Report, published today.

Complaints about mobile phones increased by nine per cent to 122,834 from 112,376 in 2010-11.

Ombudsman Simon Cohen reported positive signs about improvement in the telco industry late in the 2011-12 financial year. “There has been a clear trend, since April 2012, of reduced complaints, with the last quarter of 2011-12 being our quietest for almost two years,” Mr Cohen said. “This is a positive sign that reflects the focus by a number of telcos on improving their customer service.”

Mr Cohen said two out of three complaints made to the TIO were about mobile phones, reflecting the rising use of smart phones. Poor coverage, billing disputes and the quality of information given to consumers at the point of sale were common issues in these complaints.

The TIO Annual Report highlighted ongoing billing and credit issues related to mobile services as a particular concern. Complaints about bill accuracy and usage charges, and disputes about financial overcommitment, all increased substantially during 2011-12. This includes the following specific issues:

  • 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. “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 also shows a rise in complaints about credit default listings. Complaints about consumers being credit default listed while their debt was in dispute increased 18 per cent from 3,700 to 4,370. There was also a 16 per cent increase in complaints about consumers being credit default listed without proper notification, up from 3,220 to 3,730.

“I am very concerned about the increase in the number of complaints where credit default listings are disputed,” Mr Cohen said “Credit listings can have very significant impacts on people - affecting applications for credit, including for housing and personal loans. Any credit default listing should only occur after the correct procedures have been followed.”

The TIO’s 2012 annual report, Preparing for the Future, is available online.

Contact:  Mirjana Jovetic, TIO Communications Manager, on (03) 8600 8378 or 0428 023 536.

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