The number of complaints about telecommunications companies has risen 8.6 per cent in the last quarter, but has dropped over the last year, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
The TIO recorded 52,231 new complaints between 1 January and 31 March, up 8.6 per cent from 48,100 in the prior three months. However, year on year, this is a drop in complaints of 12.3 per cent — largely due to the high level of complaints by Vodafone customers in the first three months of 2011, during the peak of its network problems.
The TIO, Simon Cohen, noted that two thirds of all complaints in the first three months of 2012 were about mobile services, and two areas of increased complaints that are concerning the TIO are the lack of spending-management tools and disputes over internet charges.
"It is well known that more internet browsing and downloads are now done on mobile phones and other mobile devices. With this change in consumer behaviour, we have seen complaints about excess data charges almost treble over the last year," Cohen said. "The incidence of these complaints will reduce, if consumers are only contracted for services they can afford, and where spend-management tools such as notifications and usage meters are accurate and reliable."
The Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code, developed by the Communications Alliance, will aim to address so-called "bill shock" by requiring telecommunications companies that have signed on to the code to have better spending-management tools available. This includes giving customers information about how much data they are using, how many calls they are making and how many text messages they are sending, within 48 hours.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has rejected the code twice. The Communications Alliance submitted a third proposal on 30 May, but the ACMA has not yet indicated whether this amended code meets its requirements.
The Communications Alliance was hoping to have the code in place by 1 August, but it is currently unlikely that this deadline will be met.