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Mobile service performance a key consumer issue

12 December 2013

Coverage, drop outs and slow data speeds are the most common mobile performance complaints made to the TIO, Ombudsman Simon Cohen reported recently.

Coverage complaints decreased more than 13 per cent in 2012-13 but were the top issue reported by mobile phone users, with 25,770 new complaints. Coverage complaints decreased 41 per cent in July–September to 4,068.

TIO complaints point to a disconnect that sometimes exists between consumers' expectations and the actual performance of their mobile service, the Ombudsman said.

Issues in complaints

A detailed analysis of mobile performance complaints showed that:

  • 80 per cent of complaints are about voice issues
  • almost half of those consumers complain about poor reception at their home, and
  • 40 per cent of consumers told us they had not received information about coverage before they signed up for a service.

"Our analysis of complaints shows how important it is for Australian consumers to have a reliable mobile voice service at home," Mr Cohen told the Mobile Network Performance forum organised by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on 14 November. "Coverage and related complaints are consistently the top mobile issue, including in those postcodes with the most complaints."

Unanswered queries about coverage and inconsistent or contradictory information about infrastructure upgrades were other issues consumers reported.

"Consumers need good information to make an informed decision about the best mobile service for them. This is especially important if they are signing up to long-term contracts," Mr Cohen said. "Good  performance at a consumer's home is critical when households are replacing fixed home phones with mobiles."

Seven out of every 10 new complaints made about mobile performance in 2012-13 were specifically about coverage. These complaints included problems with making or receiving calls, messages or accessing the internet; poor reception; poor voice quality; and calls ending unexpectedly.

Two in every 10 mobile performance complaints were about drop outs. The number of drop out issues we recorded in 2012-13 increased 3.8 per cent to 6,727.

Slow data speeds featured in one out of 10 new complaints about performance. These types of complaints increased 20 per cent in 2012-13 to 1,623.

Resolutions

Common resolutions to mobile performance complaints include:

  • usage charge refunds or discounts
  • cancelling contracts without termination fees
  • an explanation from the provider about the coverage issues
  • handset upgrades
  • mobile signal repeaters, and
  • goodwill payments to compensate for the inconvenience caused by the issues.

Ninety-two per cent of mobile performance complaints made to the TIO were solved quickly through our "referral" process.

Most of the remaining eight per cent of consumers who needed to return to the TIO because their complaint was not resolved did so because the provider did not follow through with the proposed resolution or it did not address an issue with disputed charges.

Tips for consumers

Before you sign up for a new service:

  • tell your provider the areas where you will most likely use your mobile and make sure they are covered by its "footprint"
  • make sure you get a copy of a coverage map or view a coverage map online, and
  • make sure the handset you get/have is compatible with the type of service you want, e.g. blue tick for regional areas or 4G-enabled in metro areas.

If you have a complaint about a mobile-related issue, contact your provider first,and if you cannot solve the problem, make a complaint via the TIO.

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