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Investigating complaints about essential mobile services

Investigating complaints about essential mobile services report released

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) today released a report highlighting the key drivers behind complaints about mobile services. The report is in response to a shift in complaint trends, with mobile services becoming the dominant complaint type.

Between July 2020 and March 2022, the TIO received over 63,000 complaints about mobile services. While overall complaint numbers declined in that period, the proportion of mobile complaints increased. Complaint numbers about misleading conduct by a telco and unsuitable payment options were higher for mobile services than for internet, landline and multiple services combined. 

The report “Investigating complaints about essential mobile services” identifies four key problems driving complaints about mobile services. These are:

  • Mis-selling mobile services leads to poor outcomes for consumers
  • Information about mobile service reliability is not always provided
  • Customer self-service is not accessible to all consumers
  • Automatic payment methods can result in loss of service or disadvantage

Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said, “We aren't seeing the same improvements in complaints about mobile services as we are in other service types. This is concerning because when something goes wrong with a mobile service, the impacts can be really disruptive to people’s lives.” 

“The last few years catapulted Australia forward in terms of how we use our mobile phone services, and what we need them to do. In today’s world, mobile phone services are essential not only for daily life – such as banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, and connecting socially – but also for safety during an emergency like a bushfire or flood.” 

She continued, “While telcos have made improvements in recent years, the investigations by my office show there is still work to be done on responsible selling of mobile services, communicating effectively about service reliability, removing barriers to accessing support from a human being when trying to contact a telco, and ensuring that automatic payment methods are not negatively impacting consumers.” 

The report highlights the important stories of consumers who attended community outreach events, in a first for a systemic investigations report. These stories demonstrate the challenges faced by consumers to stay connected during devastating disasters, or in rural or remote areas. 

The report also features tips for telcos and consumers to help reduce problems with a mobile service. 

Tips for telcos include:

  • At sign-up, help consumers decide if the product is right for them
  • Be clear with consumers about the quality of service they can expect
  • Ensure self-service options have a clear pathway to a person
  • Let consumers know about upcoming direct debits, and contact consumers who miss a payment

Tips for consumers include:

  • Research your new mobile service before buying, such as checking coverage maps and available payment methods
  • If something about your new mobile service is not what you expected, tell your telco
  • If you need flexibility for your next payment, contact your telco to talk about it before the payment is due
  • If you can’t get in touch with your telco, contact the TIO

Download the report here


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