The last quarter of 2011 recorded the lowest level of new TIO complaints for the year. During October – December, we recorded 48,100 new complaints. This was a six per cent decrease compared to the previous three months and 19 per cent lower than the first quarter of 2011. However, complaint levels are still higher than the same period in 2010 when we reported 45,263 new complaints.
TIO conciliations reduced by a similar proportion, while investigations (Level 3 and 4) reduced by 73 per cent in the quarter – from 241 down to 64. “Decreased investigations stand out this quarter as a significant achievement,” said Ombudsman Simon Cohen. “Conciliation and other business improvements by the TIO, along with good engagement by service providers and consumers, means faster resolutions and fewer cases that require detailed investigation.”
Increasing mobile phone usage in Australia continues to be reflected in TIO statistics, with complaints about mobile phone services accounting for 67 per cent – or 32,284 – of new TIO complaints. This represents a 4.3 per cent decrease from the previous quarter; however, new complaints about mobile phone services are 35.3 per cent higher than this time in 2010 (23,854).
Credit management issues continue to be high in new mobile phone complaints (9,252 issues recorded). While there has been a 6.5 per cent decrease from the July-September 2011 quarter, this is a 63.8 per cent increase compared to the same period last year.
A substantial cause of these complaint issues is financial over-commitment. Consumers complain that they do not know about or do not have the adequate tools to manage their spending. These tools include accurate usage meters or timely warnings when consumers are about to exceed the limits of their plans.
“The issue of credit management continues to be of concern to the TIO, and we have expressed the need for stronger and more comprehensive rules in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code that is currently under review,” Mr Cohen said.
Complaints about transfer and connection delays for mobile services have increased substantially in late 2011. Transfer complaints, in particular, are up more than 135 per cent in the final quarter of 2011. This increase is despite a generally effective industry Code that supports mobile number portability. The TIO has commenced enquiries into a potential systemic issue relating to mobile number porting as a result of this trend.