Service quality, delays in connecting and unsatisfactory responses from telcos were among the most common complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network, which saw skyrocketing complaints in the past six months.
The number of complaints about NBN services tripled in the second half of 2017, according to a report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
There were a total of 22,827 complaints about the NBN from 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017, according to the TIO's Six Monthly Update.
“Complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network continued to increase compared to the same six month period in 2016,” ombudsman Judi Jones said.
“This indicates the consumer experience is still not meeting expectations for all. Recent changes to regulation and an increase in our powers to resolve complaints are positive steps that will help improve the consumer experience.”
The report found there were 84,914 complaints about internet, mobile and landline services in the same period for both residential dwellings and small businesses, citing charges and fees, unsatisfactory response from providers, poor service quality and having no service at all.
Complaints were predominantly from residential consumers at 74,729 complaints, or 88 percent of the total. Complaints from small businesses were at 9947 or 11.7 percent.
“The telecommunications industry in Australia continues to experience significant change. An increasing range of products and services are being offered to consumers, expectations for the quality of phone and internet services are high, and the rollout of the National Broadband Network is changing the way we use telecommunications services.
“However, consumers still seem to be facing the same problems, particularly with their bills and the customer service they receive. Confidence in services being updated or transferred reliably, faulty equipment, and poor service quality were also recorded as key issues.”
She added that wider issues relating to phone or internet problems such as debt management are “concerning”.
Australian telecommunications industry body Communications Alliance said the statistics were “disappointing” and admitted that the industry “has to do more to improve the customer experience”.
“While our industry is dealing with disruption, in part caused by the significant increase in NBN connections and migration to the network, we are disappointed with the high level of complaints in the second half of 2017,” Communications Alliance director of program management Christiane Gillespie-Jones said.
“Industry – including service providers and NBN – are working intensely on a range of measures to improve the overall consumer experience.”
She added that a number of initiatives around broadband speeds are “bearing fruit” and that speeds – even during peak hour – are often exceeding advertised speeds, citing the recent ACCC Broadband Speed Monitoring Report.
Mobile complaints from residential users came in at 29.4 percent, closely followed by internet complaints at 28 percent and landline netting 11.1 percent. Complaints from customers who had more than one phone or internet service was the highest at 30.8 percent, while complaints about damage or access to property was 0.8 percent.
Complaints from small businesses, meanwhile, were 39.6 percent from those with multiple services, followed by landline at 21.9 percent, mobile at 20.9 percent, internet at 17.3 percent and property complaints were at 0.4 percent.
By state, Queensland saw the highest growth in complaints, increasing 39.3 percent to 16,418, followed by 36.5 percent in Western Australia with 7381 complaints.
New South Wales had the highest total complaints with 26,914, up 27.9 percent, followed by Victoria’s 23,954 complaints, or a 30.5 percent increase. South Australia made 6552 complaints, Tasmania made 1614, the Australian Capital Territory made 1184 and Northern Territory made 504.
“With ‘provider response’ being the top issue raised by customers who complain in relation to a service delivered over the NBN, our industry will be working to improve the end-to-end experience, including through improved assistance between providers in the supply chain to resolve complaints,” Gillespie-Jones said.
“Our industry cannot be satisfied with these numbers and we will continue to implement measures – including through the enforceable Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code that is currently being revised – designed to improve the overall customer experience.”