The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is crediting the national rollout of the NBN over the past three years for creating a more mature and galvanised Australian telco sector.
In the agency’s annual report for 2019-2020, complaints about mobile services largely remained steady, but internet and landline services were set to continue the decline from previous years if not for issues caused by the bushfires and COVID-19.
TIO Ombudsman Judi Jones said the lessons have helped reduce the number of complaints and “strengthened” the telco ecosystem with the industry, government, regulators, advocates and the TIO playing a part to ensure service continuity.
But Jones conceded the challenges brought by the summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic meant there was still “more work to do”.
“While the complaints we deal with stem from technology, the problems we are solving are ultimately human ones,” Jones said.
“The extraordinary events of the year meant that consumers have increasingly had to rely on telecommunications services and internet to continue to live, work and educate and many have faced frustrations as providers worked to adapt to unprecedented challenges.”
The report cited the bushfires and flooding between January and March 2020, where complaints about not having a working phone or internet service increased almost 70 percent compared to the previous quarter.
The period between March and June 2020, when most of the COVID-19 restrictions were in place, highlighted the reliance of Australians on phone and internet services, which resulted in the provision of temporary financial relief and extra capacity on the NBN.
COVID-19 also saw increased pressure on telco call centres and back office functions based overseas, resulting in a 1500 percent year-over-year increase in the number of complaints of being unable to contact telcos about internet services.
“Each day, my office strives to resolve phone and internet complaints more effectively and efficiently. We are making significant progress in moving to be an agile organisation flexing to respond to the complexities of the changing telecommunications landscape,” Jones said.
“This was tested during the transition to working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, and I am proud of the way we looked after our people while continuing to deliver our service for telco consumers and their providers.”