The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) said that it had received a 9 per cent increase in new complaints over the half year to 31 December 2010, which it called "disappointing".
The office received 87,264 new complaints between 1 July and 31 December 2010, up 6957 on the first half of 2010.
"The increase, entirely reversing the positive trend seen in the first half of 2010, is extremely disappointing," ombudsman Simon Cohan said.
Vodafone was singled out by the ombudsman for bad performance. "New complaints about Vodafone were up 5370 in the second half of 2010 — an increase of 96 per cent," the office said. Vodafone has had a tough few months, with users raging about bad service.
Complaints ranted from mobile coverage issues, long wait times for customer service (if they're able to reach the telco at all) and a failure to act on promises.
"Customer frustration with Vodafone is understandable," Cohen said. "It is one thing to have a service problem. But what is particularly concerning is when consumers cannot contact someone to have their problems sorted out."
"I am aware of recent additional staffing to improve Vodafone customer service, and we will carefully monitor whether this is reducing the need for consumers to come to the TIO."
However, the increase in new complaints wasn't limited to Vodafone, according to the office, with complaint increases leading to new TIO officers being recruited.
Overall, mobile phones were the cause of much of the customer ire, with a 20 per cent increase in mobile phone service issues. International roaming had also caught the ombudsman's eye.
"Using a mobile telephone overseas can be very expensive. Consumers can be liable for not only for calls they make, but also for calls they receive, and for data downloads from using a GPS," Cohen said.
Vodafone responded to the ombudsman's figures, pointing out that it was committed to improving customer service and had added 300 customer service representatives to tackle the problem.
"While numbers of customers contacting the TIO has reduced recently, we have more work to do," VHA CEO Nigel Dews said in a statement.
Vodafone also reiterated its plans to revamp its network infrastructure.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) called on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to act to ensure customers are treated fairly by their telcos.
"Why should a customer have to resort to the ombudsman in order to get Telstra, Optus, Vodafone — and all of the other players recording multimillion-dollar profits — to resolve customer service and complaint handling problems? There's no other industry that has failed its customers so comprehensively over such an extended period of time," ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said today.
"We're calling on the ACMA to introduce a complaint-handling standard to bring this industry into line. Today's record number of complaints, the latest in a line of historically high figures, is further evidence that the industry cannot be allowed to continue to regulate itself."