The TIO recorded 36,256 new complaints from January to March 2014, 8.7 per cent more than the previous quarter, but 9.4 per cent fewer than at the same time in 2013.
For the third quarter in a row, we received fewer than 20,000 new complaints about mobile services. The 18,474 mobile complaints represented a modest increase of 1.3 per cent from October-December 2013, but a significant decrease of 19.4 per cent compared to January-March 2013.
Issues of faults in mobile services have reduced by 49.5 per cent when compared to the same time last year. Quarter on quarter, a reduction of slow mobile data speed issues was of note, with a 32.7 per cent drop compared to October-December 2013.
New complaints about internet and landline services increased 20.6 and 15.9 per cent respectively compared to the previous quarter. Year on year, the increases were more modest - at 4.8 per cent for internet and 2.9 per cent for landline new complaints. These increases have been caused by a higher number of fault and connection issues.
Emerging issue – mobile data charges
For the first time since January-March 2011, billing and payments became the most common type of issue reported to the TIO across all services.
The most common issue reported under this category was excess data charges on mobile and internet services. One out of every five billing and payments issues in January-March 2014 was about this problem. About half of the billing and payment issues recorded were for mobile services, consistent with our overall complaint distribution.
In contrast, issues of faults in mobile services, particularly coverage and slow data speeds, have decreased steadily over the last two quarters (see graphs and tables below).
Recent research reports provide further context to these trends. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the average mobile data use in Australia is 2GB. Separately, the CSIRO reports that more than half of mobile phone users in Australia subscribe to plans that include 1GB data or less.
Emerging issue - internet faults and charges
Billing and payment issues for internet services increased 26.4 per cent in January-March 2014 (3,898) compared to October-December 2013 (3,083) and 11.9 per cent compared to January-March 2013.
This occurred almost uniformly with a 26.9 per cent increase in faults issues quarter on quarter (5,113 v 4,028), but decreased 0.5 per cent year on year (5,143).
Connection issues also increased - 27.4 quarter on quarter (2,088 v 1,639) and 31.4 per cent year on year.
Our analysis of new complaints found that one in every three new internet complaints with billing and payment issues included a fault or connection issue. A common theme in these complaints was consumer dissatisfaction with being billed for a service that they had reported as faulty or that had a delayed connection.
"Where services are not connected or not operating, it is not fair for consumers to be charged for the service. This has been an emerging issue in the last year," Ombudsman Simon Cohen said.
For detailed graphs and spreadsheets, please view our statistics page.
Graphs and tables - excess mobile data and slow data speeds
|Issue||Jan-Mar 13||Apr-Jun 13||Jul-Sep 13||Oct-Dec 13||Jan-Mar 14|
|Mobile excess data charges issues||2,823||3,084||3,084||3,437||3,678|
|Mobile slow data speed issues||324||526||276||156||105|