Number portability sees complaints spike

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has recorded a 135 per cent increase in complaints from customers about mobile phone porting in the last quarter of 2011.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has recorded a 135 per cent increase in complaints from customers about mobile phone porting in the last quarter of 2011.

Phone rage

(334/365 this is a phoooonne! image by Lazurite, CC BY-ND 2.0)

In the latest statistics for the October to December quarter of 2011, the TIO noted that while overall new complaints were at their lowest level for the year, the ombudsman had recorded a massive 135 per cent spike in complaints about number portability.

"This increase is despite a generally effective industry code that supports mobile number portability. The TIO has commenced inquiries into a potential systemic issue relating to mobile number porting as a result of this trend," the TIO said.

Between October and December, there were a total 48,100 new complaints made to the ombudsman. This represented a 6 per cent decrease compared to the previous three months, but still higher than the same period in 2010, which recorded 45,263 complaints.

Higher level complaints were also down 73 per cent for the quarter from 241 to 64. Complaints relating to mobile phone services made up the majority of overall complaints, accounting for 67 per cent. Landline complaints made up 18 per cent, while internet complaints were 14 per cent and mobile premium services made up 1 per cent.

Customer service issues made up 24 per cent of complaints to the TIO, followed closely by billing and payment issues at 20 per cent. Contracts, complaints handling, faults and credit management were also high on the list of new complaints, but ombudsman Simon Cohen said the overall drop in complaints was a significant achievement for the industry.

"Conciliation and other business improvements by the TIO, along with good engagement by service providers and consumers, means faster resolutions and fewer cases that require detailed investigation."

Yet the ombudsman said that there were still too many complaints from customers who don't have adequate tools to manage their monthly spending.

"The issue of credit management continues to be of concern to the TIO, and we have expressed the need for stronger and more comprehensive rules in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code that is currently under review," Cohen said.

John Stanton, CEO of the Communications Alliance, said that the drop in complaints would continue once the industry implemented its Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.

"Overall complaint volumes are still too high, but we are seeing a positive trend emerging — partly because many service providers are already modifying aspects of their customer-facing operations to be able to comply with the new code," he said in a statement.

"The huge drop in complaints requiring investigation points to better engagement by service providers with customers who have taken complaints to the TIO, to ensure that complaints are normally resolved quickly."

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