Australians are unhappier than ever with their phone and internet providers, as complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) rose by six per cent over the past year, a new report has found.
The TIO received 167,831 complaints last financial year – the highest number in three years, with more than a third of those being related to customer service problems.
The country’s two biggest providers, Optus and Telstra, topped the list of the most complained about telcos. The new report showed Optus Group, which includes Virgin, had a 35 per cent increase in complaints compared to the previous year, with 40,665 complaints received about Optus, compared to 30,120 during the 2016-17 financial year.
Meanwhile, the TIO received 82,528 customer complaints (up 7.7 per cent) about Telstra in the last financial year. While the NBN hasn’t done too well in previous TIO reports, this year’s report saw them improve significantly.
The majority of complaints made to the TIO (51, 328) were about mobile phone services, with the most complained about issue being the time it took for a service provider to address or fix issues with phone or internet services.
Ombudsman Judi Jones said that, while telcos were on notice to improve customer service, the industry was starting to perform better overall. The report found that customer complaints had actually dropped by 17.8 per cent in the most recent quarter, between April and June.
“While there is still work to do, the downward trend is good news for Australian residential consumers and small businesses, and for the telecommunications sector,” Jones said.
Vodafone, Dodo and TPG also experienced small improvements in customer complaints.
“We remain committed to delivering a best practice complaints handling service for the telecommunications industry, and to continuing our work with all stakeholders to reduce complaints and contribute to improving telecommunications services in Australia,” Jones added.
The new report comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced they had commenced proceedings against Optus, alleging it made false or misleading representation to consumers in relation to its third-party billing service known as ‘Direct Carrier Billing’ (DCB).
Optus has admitted that it was aware, from at least April 2014, its DCB service led a significant number of consumers to be charged for premium content such as ringtones and games, that they didn’t want and hadn’t agreed to buy.
The mobile provider now might be forced to pay $10 million in penalties. Optus has also offered to refund all customers affected by the service — it’s possible that more than 240,000 customers were affected.