The TIO has seen a sharp decline in new complaints, beginning in April 2012 and continuing into the new financial year. Between 1 July and 30 September 2012 we received 37,777 new complaints, 10.8 per cent fewer than in the previous quarter, when we received 42,353 new complaints. Complaints are down 26.1 per cent decrease from the same period last year.
Decreases have been recorded across all service types. In particular, mobile service complaints have reduced by 11.4 per cent decrease in July-September 2012 compared to the previous quarter, and 35.6 per cent when compared to the same period last year.
We continue to see improvements in the area of complaint handling, with decreases in this area for the seventh consecutive quarter. These issues have almost halved over the last year.
Customer service issues are also declining. Although they are the most commonly recorded issues by the TIO, they have reduced by about a third in the last year. Billing issues have decreased 12 per cent across all service types, primarily due to a decrease in mobile phone billing issues, including for disputed internet usage charges and disputed roaming charges.
“The first quarter of the new financial year has seen an ongoing reduction in TIO complaints – something that is good news for industry and consumers alike,” Ombudsman Simon Cohen said. “The challenge will be to keep up this positive customer service and complaint handling story over the summer months.”
Mobile phone complaints still make up the majority to TIO complaints, and coverage related issues continue to be the main complaint of consumers who come to the TIO. There has been a 4.2 per cent increase in issues about mobile coverage, reversing a trend of reductions over the last four quarters.
Across all services, disputes about credit defaults and notification of impending defaults increased by almost 5 per cent and about 10 per cent respectively in July-September 2012 compared to the previous quarter.
The minimum amount for which a consumer can default listed is now under consideration. Currently, a consumer may be listed for a credit default that lasts for five years for as little as $100. The TIO, along with other Ombudsman services, has recommended increasing the minimum amount of a credit default from $100 to $300. (See Ombudsman calls to lift minimum default amount).
Case study - Elias’ complaint
Elias contacted the TIO in August 2012. He told us that he moved house one month prior and was told by his provider that his landline service would be connected the day after he moved. He told us that he identified as a priority assistance customer, but despite numerous conversations with the provider, the service hadn’t been connected.
The TIO referred Elias back to the provider for an urgent response within two working days. Elias returned to us and said that although a technician had attended within that time, nothing had been resolved.
When we conciliated the complaint, we clarifed the issues with both the consumer and the service provider.
Elias claimed that he had been told to purchase a pre-paid mobile service to which the provider would divert calls so he had access to a service. However, Elias said he couldn’t make calls to 13 or 18 numbers through the prepaid service to contact his carers and medication suppliers.
The provider acknowledged that it had received Elias’ request for connection, but that there was a delay due to there being “no spare main cable to connect him to” in the street.
The provider also claimed that after unsuccessfully trying to contact Elias, it sent him a letter advising him of the delay and offered the prepaid mobile as an interim service. It said Elias made contact and accepted the prepaid mobile.
The provider explained that a week later, it was in a position to connect Elias’ service and unsuccessfully attempted to contact him. However, instead of going ahead and connecting his service, the provider withdrew the diversion to Elias’ pre-paid mobile, leaving him in an even more vulnerable position.
To resolve the complaint, the diversion to Elias’ mobile was reactivated. The landline was eventually connected and Elias was given a $98 credit and $121 compensation under the Customer Service Guarantee Standard for the delay in connecting the landline.