Complaint numbers stabilised in July – September 2011, due to continuing decreases in complaints about landline and internet services.
The TIO received 51,196 new complaints in the first quarter or 2011-12, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to the previous quarter. While complaints in the first quarter of the financial are 22 per cent higher than this time last year, they have nevertheless stabilised during 2011.
The increased use of mobile services continues to be reflected in the TIO’s complaint statistics with 33,746 new complaints, 7.3 per cent more than in the previous quarter. Network-related issues aren’t as prevalent among the reasons why mobile phone users contacted the TIO; however, complaints about inadequate assistance and broken promises by providers were prominent issues.
The most common complaint among mobile phone consumers was receiving incorrect advice from their providers’ customer service representatives, an issue that increased 2.4 per cent to 9,734. Following that, despite a 5.2 per cent decrease, were 8,690 issues about coverage.
Three other trends stand out in complaints about mobile phones. The first is a rise in disputes about roaming charges, with a 92.3 per cent increase. This statistic largely coincides with Australian Bureau of Statistics data evidencing an increase in short term departures from Australia triggered by a high Aussie Dollar.
It is important for service providers to give accurate information to consumers at the point of sale and when asked by their customers to activate the roaming function on their mobile services. Consumers should also be proactive in learning about the roaming settings and how they may be charged for using their mobile services overseas before they activate their roaming function. This can help avoid unexpectedly high bills.
We have also noticed a 73.4 per cent increase in disputes about internet usage charges from a mobile phone (2,857 issues) which is consistent with the continuing increase in the take up of smartphones.
The third issue of concern to the TIO is a 63.8 per cent increase in complaints about inadequate spend controls (4,301 issues). This is a leading cause of bill shock, as people who mention this as an issue will often come to us with a complaint about a high bill where their provider has not alerted them about unusually high spending.
Pleasingly, the number of matters that required conciliation or investigation by TIO officers reduced 7.5 per cent to 5,434. This highlights the success of the industry’s responsiveness to our conciliation approach.