The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received 197,682 new complaints in 2010-11, an increase of almost 18 per cent on the previous year.
The 2011 TIO Annual Report, released online today, attributes the rise to mobile phone service faults and increased smart phones use.
“The record number of complaints made to the TIO is disappointing. Customers who have complained to us have been frustrated not only by mobile telephone problems, but also by deficient customer service and complaint handling,” Ombudsman Simon Cohen said.
More than half the new complaints received by the TIO (over 112,000) were about mobile phone services, an increase of 51 per cent from the previous year. Of these, more than 32,000 were about Vodafone, almost tripling the number of its new mobile phone complaints when compared to the previous year.
The most common mobile phone complaint issue was about service faults, with 56,475 new complaints made to the TIO, a 180 per cent increase. Consumers were most concerned about poor mobile coverage and service drop-outs.
Many of the remaining new mobile phone complaints could be attributed to inadequate information provided to consumers about the costs associated with smart phones and related billing disputes. For example, we recorded a 26 per cent increase (to 4,222) in disputes about internet charges on mobile service.
“There has also been an alarming increase in the number of consumers with high debts because they could not monitor their usage adequately, the majority using mobile phones,” Mr Cohen said. Of the 10,469 issues reported to the TIO about inadequate spend controls, 7,844 were exclusively about mobile services – an increase of 119 per cent compared to the previous year.
“It is in everyone’s interest to make sure there are effective and easy-to-use monitoring tools available to consumers to track their own usage. Service providers should also monitor customers’ usage and notify them if they are accruing unexpectedly high bills to avoid people not being able to pay their bills and facing credit and debt collection problems as a result,” Mr Cohen said.
Complaints about landline, internet and mobile premium services (MPS) all reduced in 2010‑11.
“MPS complaints are down almost 50 per cent, which reflects positively on stronger government and industry regulation,” Mr Cohen said.
Investigations by the TIO also reduced in 2010-11, despite the sharp increase in new complaints, demonstrating the effectiveness of the TIO’s referral and conciliation processes. “These are positive signs which demonstrate that service providers are responsive when the TIO is involved in complaints,” Mr Cohen said.The TIO Annual Report is online at http://www.tio.com.au/annualreport. Video and audio media grabs are available at www.tio.com.au/about-us/are-you-a/media-worker