Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman report reveals complaints are at a four-year-high

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Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman report reveals complaints are at a four-year-high

The number of complaints about internet and mobile services have reached a four-year-high to 158,016, a year-on-year increase of 41.1 percent.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman today released its annual report, which revealed FY2017 had seen the highest number of complaints since 2012-13.

For the first time, complaints about internet services overtook mobile and landline phone complaints.

Complaints about internet services made to the TIO increased 64.8 percent in FY17 to reach 63,892, accounting for 40.4 percent of overall complaints. Mobile services accounted for 33 percent of complaints, while landline services account for 26.5 percent. All three categories saw an increase in the number of complaints.

The most common grievances regarded customer service, followed by billing and payments, faults and complaint handling.

The Communications Alliance, which represents telecommunications providers, said that complaints as a proportion of services in operation (SIO) fell to 8.3 per 10,000 services for the September quarter, the lowest since the December 2016 quarter.

Speaking ahead of the release of the TIO report, Communications Alliance chief executive John Stanton said: "Industry – including service providers and NBN – are working intensely on a range of customer, service and process initiatives to improve the overall consumer experience.

"It is pleasing that these latest Complaints in Context results appear to indicate that these efforts are beginning to bear fruit," Stanton added.

NBN grievances

The TIO tracked complaints about services on the NBN individually, which increased 159.3 percent this year to reach 27,195. The TIO said an increase was somewhat expected given the accelerated rollout of the network, but an increase of more than double the number of complaints from last year was cause for concern.

NBN Co doubled the number of active premises in FY17 to 2.4 million.

The network builder said the some of the issues identified by the TIO report were to be expected with a project of NBN's scale.

Bill Morrow, NBN Co chief executive, said: “While it is fewer than 15 percent of the ‘nbn’ complaints to the TIO that are directed to NBN Co, this equates to about 1 percent of the number of activated premises that we are not making the experience the best it can be and we are taking this very seriously."

NBN Co said in a statement: "We are working with retail service providers and industry as a priority to improve these figures and the overall experience for consumers."

In July, Morrow accused ISPs of ignoring customer service in order to compete with each other for market share.

In the statement, NBN Co pointed out that "no large-scale construction project has ever been problem-free. With a workforce of close to 30,000 people digging trenches, hauling cable, climbing poles and going into people's yards and homes, there are inevitably going to be some issues. This is especially the case given approximately nine out of every 10 Australian premises will be impacted by this industry-wide transformation."

NBN Co said fewer than 15 percent of complaints about the NBN were directed towards the company, rather than retail service providers delivering service on the network.

As for ISPs, the 10 biggest service providers accounted for 90.9 percent of complaints, with the three biggest topping the list. Telstra had the most complaints with 76,650, an increase of 43.5 percent, followed by Optus with 28,766 complaints, up 31.2 percent, and Vodafone with 10,684 complaints, up 37.5 percent.

Residential services accounted for 87.9 percent of complaints, while small businesses accounted for 11.9 percent of complaints.

According to a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 13.7 million internet subscriptions in the 2017 financial year and 26.3 million mobile handset subscriptions.

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