Annual Report 2020-21 | The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
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Annual Report 2020-21

Summary
Complaints about phone and internet services decreased 6.1 per cent in the last financial year ending 30 June 2021. During this period, residential consumers and small businesses made 119,400 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, highlighted in the Annual Report 2020-21 published today.

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FY2020-21 complaints summary

Overall

119,400 complaints were received in the last financial year, a decrease of 6.1 per cent.

Residential consumers

  • 99,711 complaints (83.5 per cent) were from residential consumers, a volume decrease of 8.2 per cent against the previous year.
  • Most complaints received from residential consumers had to do with their internet and mobile phone services.
  • Problems with a bill and poor customer service recorded the largest volume of complaints. 

Small businesses

  • 19,689 complaints (16.5 per cent) were from small businesses, a 6.6 per cent increase on the previous year and the highest volume of small business complaints in the last three years.
  • Complaints about multiple services accounted for 34.1 per cent of complaints, an increase from 30.6 per cent last year, with multiple services remaining the dominant service type for small business complaints.
  • Small businesses made 3,946 complaints about internet services, which made up 20 per cent of small business complaints. the highest proportion and volume of internet complaints for small business in the last three years.
  • Complaints about business loss continue to be an issue for small businesses, growing by 13.3 per cent.

Complaints about internet, mobile, multiple and landline services

  • Complaints about no or delayed action by provider increased most for mobile services (22.8 per cent), but also increased for multiple (11.1 per cent) and internet (7.2 per cent) services. These complaints were mainly driven by consumers complaining about general delays in providers responding to COVID-19 related issues, delays in transferring their services to another provider, missed appointments, and delays in fixing billing issues.
  • Complaints about providers being uncontactable and failure to cancel a service* increased across internet, mobile, multiple, and landline services. These two complaints were often related, with consumers complaining about providers not cancelling a service because they were not contactable. Complaints about providers being uncontactable reduced substantially by the fourth quarter, which is a positive development for consumers.
  • Complaints about missed appointments remained in the top 10 issues for internet services, increasing by 7 per cent when compared to 2019-20. They were more of an issue in the later part of the year due to issues with the scheduling of NBN technician appointments.
  • Complaints about poor mobile coverage and equipment faults for mobile services increased by 9.3 per cent and 7.3 per cent respectively.

Complaint issues in phone and internet services

  • Poor customer service and problems with a bill were the most common problems reported by consumers. While these issues are frequently part of a complaint driven by other issues, complaints involving no or delayed action increased by 11.7 per cent as consumers expressed frustration with their provider's failure to resolve their issues.
  • Complaints about providers being uncontactable increased by 88.4 per cent. This issue was primarily driven by COVID-19 impacts, although changes by several providers to their consumer contact channels also impacted this issue, as some consumers struggled to navigate these.
  • Complaints about failure to cancel a service* continued to increase in 2020-21 as a result of both COVID-19 processing delays and problems with porting. Complaints about enhanced or add-on features to a service increased by over 100 per cent and were driven by a known problem with a single provider in the first half of the year.

Fault and connection complaints about services delivered over the NBN and other networks

  • Complaints involving fault and connection issues continue to be a significant proportion of our complaints at 47.1 per cent. This was slightly lower compared to last year’s 49.2 per cent.
  • Fault and connection complaints reduced by 10.1 per cent across all service types, with noticeable volume reductions for internet services (9.1 per cent), multiple services (13.8 per cent), and landline services (22.3 per cent) when compared to the previous year. Complaints about faults and connection problems for mobile services increased by 8 per cent. Complaints about internet services delivered over the NBN also increased by 4.9 per cent.
  • The main driver of the increase in faults and connection complaints about mobile services was an increase in complaints about poor mobile coverage. We also saw large increases in complaints about many other faults and connections keywords. However these did not reach the top 10 issues for mobile services.
  • There was an increase in the proportion of fault and connection complaints about internet, landline, and multiple services delivered over the NBN, but this is to be expected with most services moving to the NBN.

Complaints about service providers

  • Complaints about Telstra accounted for 62.1 per cent of all complaints, increasing from 52.4 per cent in the previous year. Telstra’s complaint volumes increased by 11.3 per cent in the year.
  • Complaints also increased for Southern Phone Company Ltd, and new top 10 entrants Aussie Broadband Limited, Boost Tel Ptd Ltd, and Foxtel Management Pty Ltd replacing M2 Commander, Exetel and MyRepublic.
  • Optus accounted for 15.8 per cent of complaints, with Optus complaint numbers falling by 27.9 per cent in 2020-21. Declines were also recorded against TPG (down 39.5 per cent), iiNet (down 48.8 per cent), and Dodo (down 32.5 per cent).

Complaints by State

  • The Northern Territory and Tasmania were the only two states or territories to record increases in the reporting period. NT consumers made 707 complaints, a year-on-year increase of 5.4 per cent, and in TAS consumers made 1905 complaints, an increase of 4.7 per cent.
  • Complaint decreases were recorded in ACT (down 8.3 per cent), NSW (down 6.1 per cent), QLD (down 4.3 per cent), SA (down 7.2 per cent), Vic (down 4.9 per cent), and WA (down 14.9 per cent).