The TIO recorded a total of 52,231 new complaints between 1 January and 31 March 2012 – an 8.6 per cent rise from the previous quarter.
Year-on-year however, complaints decreased 12.3%, from 59,533 new complaints received between 1 January and 31 March 2012. A similar trend was seen across all service types.
New complaints about landline services increased 20.9 per cent, from 8,590 in October–December 2011, to 10,386 new complaints in January–March 2012. Year-on-year, these complaints decreased some 20 per cent.
New complaints about internet services increased 29 per cent, from 6,717 during October–December, to 8,663 in January-March, but were 1,489 fewer (a 14.7 per cent decrease) than between January and March 2011.
Between January and March 2012, new complaints about mobile services increased only very slightly, though after three quarters of decreasing new complaints.
There are two issues consumers raised in mobile service complaints that continue to be of particular concern to the TIO:
- Complaints about financial over-commitment caused by inadequate spend management tools. This issue has almost doubled over the last year (see chart). Consumers in increasing numbers are contacting the TIO stating that they have received an excessively high bill that they cannot afford to pay, and that they are unable to negotiate an acceptable solution with their provider.
- Disputed internet usage charges. Smartphone penetration in Australia is among the highest in the world, and following this high take up, new complaints about disputed excess data charges have tripled over the last year (see chart).
There is an indisputable connection between unexpectedly high telephone bills and consumers who cannot afford to pay for their services. The TIO believes that the high incidence of these complaints would reduce if providers ensured consumers could reasonable afford their contracted services.
Providers can also protect consumers from unexpected large debts through the use of tools such as usage notifications, accurate usage meters, and/or limiting access to services where unusually high charges are accruing.