Vodafone tops TIO's 'record complaints'

Vodafone tops TIO's 'record complaints'

Summary: The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has announced record levels of complaints against telcos for the first three months of 2011, with Vodafone making up the lion's share of complaints received.

TOPICS: Telcos, Optus, Telstra

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has announced record levels of complaints against telcos for the first three months of 2011, with Vodafone making up the lion's share of complaints received.

Phone rage

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

A whopping 14,670 of the massive total of 59,532 complaints received by the ombudsman in the first three months of this year were about Vodafone — as a result of the company's ongoing issues with call handling and 3G network connectivity. This 96 per cent increase in complaints on the previous three months came from a peak in January, with fewer complaints recorded in February and March.

In late February, Vodafone announced that it would overhaul its ageing Ericsson 2G and 3G network infrastructure and replace it with new Huawei radio equipment at over 8000 base stations over the next 18 months. Work on this project began on the Central Coast of New South Wales late last month.

But the complaints weren't limited to Vodafone, with customers railing against all telcos an average of 31 per cent more than the previous 3-month period, with a 50 per cent increase in complaints relating to mobile phone services. The TIO noted that the focus of many of the new complaints was around customer service issues: "inadequate assistance, long wait times and failing to act on customer requests, in addition to concerns about wrong advice".

"The sharp rise in new complaints to the TIO point to a grim quarter for consumers," ombudsman Simon Cohen said in a statement. "We have never received so many complaints. We received increased complaints about landlines, internet services and a 50 per cent increase in mobile telephone complaints."

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said that the industry shouldn't just blame Vodafone for its problems.

"The industry will point the finger at Vodafone and say, yet again, that there is no problem. The truth of the matter is that complaints about customer service and complaint-handling issues continue to climb across the board," ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said in a statement.

"This disastrous result at such a critical time would be laughable if the impact of this industry's inability to get it right didn't affect so many millions of Australians every single day. Communication services are vital and every telco customer in Australia has a horror story about dealing with telco providers — no matter who you have a service with."

Corbin said that not even banks recorded this level of complaints.

"Even the banks — which draw ire from just about everyone — only receive 23,000 complaints in a whole year a year about the way they do business. The telcos get 60,000 in a single quarter — there's no doubt this is the worst industry to deal with in the country."

The TIO's role is currently under review by the Federal Government. In submissions to the review published last month, the three big telcos have all suggested that the ombudsman's funding system based on complaint escalation levels may not be appropriate and should be re-examined.

Topics: Telcos, Optus, Telstra


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Do you have a link to the report?
    • Hi,

      Here's the link:



      Suzanne Tindal
      News Editor.
  • perhaps a tripling of the TIO fee to telcos for service may jolt the telcos into action.
    • Wasn't there a recent article where the telco's suggested the dropping of the TIO fees? You can see why they'd want that with the rising rate of complaints.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • As an employee of a telco I can say that a significant portion of our TIO complaints are made for frivolous reasons, with customers going straight to the TIO without giving us an opportunity to resolve their concerns first or with ridiculous demands. I think it's great that we have an independent government body who acts on behalf of the consumer's interests but at the same time customers often have unreasonable expectations on what they think their telcos can provide. Partly that can be explained by misleading advertising but a lot of it is also consumer ignorance.

    It doesn't help that TIO has a financial incentive to increase the number of complaints they handle, considering that they get paid by the number of complaints that are lodged including those of an unwarranted nature.
    • Spin makes me as sick as crappy customer service.
    • As with the selling of any goods or services there will be customers with unrealistic expectations. Many of these will cry 'The government should do something about it', and will utilise whatever government services exists.

      On the other hand, large corporations are intentionally or not very skilled at creating disgruntled customers. Companies need to realise that customers are external, and therefore not educated or obliged to follow complex 'customer service' or complaint processes.

      All organisations exist to make profit, but when the focus on profit/efficiency blinds them to the fact they are alienating their customers they have lost their way.

      Your point is valid, but a significant portion of those that complain to the TIO genuinely believe they have a valid concern. Frivious complainants generally won't follow the process for complaining to the TIO either.
      Scott W-ef9ad
  • Crap- call a Telco get India = no help, no authority, no security of information, no ability to contact some one who understands the Australian map & locations, culture and language. This is not a race issue it is a bad service issue. Same can apply in Australian answered call due to bad training or insufficient staff. How is waiting on a line for 20 to 50min considered good service? Don’t tell me it is just higher than expected levels of calls – you know your call profiles – bloody staff it correctly. So don’t tell me that they call the TIO direct, when if the Telco had a quick & quality help desk why would customers contact the TIO. The TIO should charge the cost of the complaint to the Telco and then the Telco will make certain they are first point of call with sufficient staff and quality training.
  • As above.

    If the customer can contact a decent customer support in a timely fashion, discuss the problem with someone who understands and speaks clear English, can get a satisfactory answer, why would they call TIO instead?

    Sure, there are of idiots who abuse the system greatly, but there are also plenty of everyday users who just want to get a problem solved. If the telcos can address these users properly then they'd be no reason for them to call the TIO.
  • Of course there are 'concerns about wrong advice' because the call centres don't speak English natively, which questions their comprehension.
  • How about the Telstra people get rid of the robotic female talk persons?
    A direct phone number to an adequately staffed help desk is far the preferred method than waiting for some electronic bimbo to go through her time-wasting pitter-patter of numbers and defined reasons for the call toTelstra.
    Hiring the right people to answer complaint calls here in Australia would be an advantage to customers and ensure more accurate analysis of whatever the problem may be.
    Most important of all, this might just help Telstra retain their customers that are now eagerly jumping ship in order to escape the ning-nong dialogue with their robots.

    William Boeder