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Latest quarterly data reveals telco complaints continue decline, problems with Internet fault testing emerge

Latest data from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reveals consumers and small businesses made 12,960 complaints between July and September 2023, a decrease of 10.6 percent against the previous quarter.

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Consumers complaining about customer service problems with inadequate fault testing increased 22 percent against the previous period and 59 percent against the same time last year, against the downward trend of complaints. 

Between July and September 2023, phone and internet consumers experienced poor customer service, problems with a bill and telcos not delivering what they promised.

Inadequate fault testing emerged as a problem across all service types but was most prevalent in Internet, with Telstra accounting for 46 percent of these complaints. Dodo and iiNet were the only two providers in the Top 10 to see decreases about this issue. 

In this reporting period, the TIO received 506 contacts from consumers about financial hardship - 351 raised as complaints and 155 noted as enquiries (when a consumer has not given their telco an opportunity to fix the problem). While the overall complaint number decreased almost 20 percent for the period, the number of enquiries about financial hardship increased 26 percent. Additionally, the number of complaints about this issue coming back to the TIO as unresolved increased 6.5 percent.

More broadly, complaints about Internet services declined at a much slower rate of 6 percent, compared to other service types. Mobile continued to be the most complained about service type but decreased 13.8 percent compared to the previous quarter.

Complaints from small businesses about Mobile services increased 3.6 percent for the quarter with the most common problems being poor customer service, problems with a bill, business loss and having no phone or internet service. 

Other key points include:

  • Nationally, the top five Local Government Areas (LGAs) with the highest complaints were Brisbane (437), Gold Coast (263), Wyndham (226), Moreton Bay (208) and Central Coast (176). 
  • Wyndham was the only LGA to see an increase in phone and internet complaints. Internet complaints in Wyndham were almost three times higher than any other LGA in Victoria.
  • First Nations consumers had problems getting connected to a phone or internet service, experienced inadequate fault testing, and delays establishing a service.
  • Consumers who speak a language other than English complained about non-financial loss, and problems with a telco’s failure to cancel a service.
  • Arabic and Hindi were the most popular languages other than English spoken by consumers who came to the TIO for help.
  • The proportion of complaints about Optus decreased from 27.3 percent to 24.9 percent compared to the previous quarter.
  • Complaints about Tangerine Telecom increased almost 22 percent, and complaints about Uniti Retail increased 160 percent.

Quote attributable to Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert:

“It's really pleasing to see the continuing decline in phone and internet complaints. However, our data shows that telcos still have work to do around poor customer service, providing clear and accurate bills, and delivering on what they promised to a customer.

“In addition, problems with inadequate fault testing need to be resolved. Consumers should be able to rely on the services they sign up for and support when those services don’t work as expected.  

“This quarter we have also observed a pattern in our financial hardship complaints that may point to obstacles for consumers to complain. These obstacles could be barriers accessing the TIO’s service, problems with a telco’s financial hardship process, or consumers simply not knowing how to navigate or identify financial hardship in their own situation. We will continue monitoring these complaint patterns to ensure consumers are getting the help they need when they need it.”


Notes to Editors

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About the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman provides a free and independent dispute resolution service for consumers and small businesses who have an unresolved complaint about their phone or internet service. Consumers and small businesses should contact or 1800 062 058.