Mobile complaints down 25% despite small-telco rise: TIO

Summary:Tiny Kogan Mobile generated over 800 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaints but mobile-related overall declined by 25% in 2012-13, "cautiously optimistic" ombudsman reveals.

A spike in complaints about small telcos and the high-profile collapse of Kogan’s mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) business couldn’t compromise strong improvements in mobile telcos’ customer service, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) Simon Cohen has reported.

Releasing figures from the organisation’s 2012-13 annual report, a "cautiously optimistic" Cohen said that despite receiving over 800 complaints about new market entrant Kogan Mobile – which went dark in August  after a bitter dispute  between wholesaler ISPOne and network operator Telstra – statistics showed that mobile operators had significantly improved their customer service overall.

SimonCohen-TIO
TIO Cohen "cautiously optimistic" about strong decline in mobile complaints. Photo: David Braue

Some 158,652 complaints were made about mobile, internet and landline services during 2012-13, with 91,331 of them about mobile services. That’s down 31,000 over the previous year, reflecting a 25% reduction in complaints about mobile services.

Noting that the three major mobile operators – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – comprise 80% of all TIO complaints, Cohen said that all three companies had shown strong moves to improve their customer service during the year as the newly introduced Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code kicked in.

“It’s clear that a stronger commitment from telcos to do better by their customers, an improved TCP Code, and a focus on compliance are paying dividends,” he said.

“Customers reported fewer disputes about matters such as bills and contract information. It was a positive to see fewer complaints about point-of-sale advice, inadequate spend-management tools, and broken promises this year.”

“I am cautiously optimistic about these results.”

Telstra received 20,773 mobile-related complaints during the fiscal year; Optus received 18,143; and Vodafone received 39,758 complaints.

Telstra received 20,773 mobile-related complaints during the fiscal year; Optus received 18,143; and Vodafone received 39,758 complaints.

Coverage was still the biggest reason for mobile complaints, with the 25,770 consumer complaints in this area comprising 28.2% of all new mobile complaints. These included issues such as the inability to make or receive calls, inability to access the Internet, weak or no reception, poor voice quality, and calls ending unexpectedly.

The TIO handled 6727 complaints about dropouts – up 3.8% on the previous year – while the 1623 complaints about slow data speeds represented a 20.9% increase over the previous year.

Australia’s 73 smallest telcos – those that received between 25 and 999 complaints during the year – bucked the downward trend by seeing complaints about their services jump 30.5% during the year, with those providers accounting for nearly 8% of all TIO complaints.

Nine new providers received over 25 new complaints during the year, with the small-telco segment the only one to record an increase in new complaints. Kogan, with over 800 complaints after its dispute with ISPOne over what it was selling as “unlimited” mobile plans saw hundreds of customers disconnected , contributed to a “contradiction to the overall trend in reductions,” Cohen said.

“I think some of those very public issues around the acceptable use policy and the like, were some of the reasons why consumers were making complaints.”

Counteracting a surge in landline complaints , the decline in mobile complaints pushed the TIO’s overall complaints load down 18.1% over the previous year, marking a five-year low  that Cohen attributed in part to the implementation of the TCP Code.

Industry regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was also recently positive about the progress made under the TCP Code, despite having to formulate punishments for over 180 non-compliant providers.

 

Vodafone-Results

Source: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

 

TIO-2013-results-Telstra

 Source: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

 

TIO-2013-results-Optus

 Source: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

 

Topics: Mobility, Australia, Optus, Telcos, Telstra

About

As large as the US mainland but with a smaller population than Texas, Australia relies on ICT innovation to maintain its position as a first-world democracy and a role model for the developing Asia-Pacific region. Award-winning journalist David Braue has covered Australia’s IT and telecoms sectors since 1995 – and he’s as quick to draw le... Full Bio

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