Aussie complaints over telecomms services rising: TIO

Summary:Australian customers' discontent with telecommunications services has risen according to the latest annual report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.Billing, mobile phone contracts and credit management topped the list of concerns expressed by people who complained to the TIO in the year to June 2004.

Australian customers' discontent with telecommunications services has risen according to the latest annual report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Billing, mobile phone contracts and credit management topped the list of concerns expressed by people who complained to the TIO in the year to June 2004.

The Ombudsman, John Pinnock, said that complaints about landline, mobile phone and Internet services increased by almost 8 percent, to 59,850, over the 2003 financial year.

Pinnock said one factor behind the rise in complaints was increased competition over the past year in the telecommunications industry.

"Generally, complaints reflected industry trends with a move away from landlines and towards mobile phone and Internet use," Pinnock said.

He said that the increased pressure across the industry to recover debt more quickly led to a 28.1 percent surge in complaints about landline credit management, to 5,528.

"Some of the reasons for this increase included increased selling, or factoring, of debts, and quicker action by companies in disconnecting and defaulting late-paying customers, and also a lack of flexibility in assisting those in financial hardship with payment plans," Pinnock said.

After several years of a steady decline, the TIO report showed that landline faults complaints rose by 21.6 percent to 3,676. The TIO said the cause for this is uncertain. The number of customer service complaints, on the other hand, dropped from 5,381 last year to 4,451 this year.

For mobile phones, credit management complaints rose by 50 percent to 3,566. The issues were similar with that of landline concerns including increasing referral to debt collecting agencies and the inability of consumers to negotiate reasonable payment arrangements.

Although complaints about mobile phone contracts rose by 37.3 percent to 5,719, much of the increase was due to a surge of complaints alleging misleading practices by the telemarketing agents of a particular company.

Many complaints about mobile phone contracts were about point of sale advice. The TIO said cases like these can be difficult to establish as they generally involve one person's word against another.

The TIO expressed its disappointment on the rise of complaints received about mobile phone contract early termination fees since the TIO believes that these fees "should not be a fixed charge or penalty but a genuine pre-estimate of loss to the provider".

Internet connection services complaints took the biggest chunk in the report with a surge of 158 percent to 1,340, with broadband accounting for 82 percent of these.

Following talks with ISP retailers and wholesalers, the TIO concluded that the complexity of the wholesale and retail relationship in ADSL services is at the core of these broadband complaints.

As one complaint can raise more than one issue, the 59,850 complaints lodged with the TIO during 2003 to 2004 resulted in 68,020 issues being raised. The highest number of complaints came from South Australia followed by Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.

Topics: Broadband, Browser, Legal, Mobility, NBN

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