Australian small businesses told TIO about erroneous disconnections 885 times in FY19

Small business complaints now taking up a higher percentage of overall complaints.


Complaints from small businesses around Australia to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have risen as a percentage received to almost 15%, with over 19,000 complaints filed.

Of that number, 885 complaints are related to a business being disconnected due to a stuff up by a telco, a report released by the TIO said.

One of the factors in these disconnections was businesses sharing a location ID in the NBN location database with another business.

"This is because in the pre-NBN environment, one phone line could supply multiple services to separate businesses. To successfully connect each business to the NBN, an individual location ID must be created for each business address," the report said.

"Small businesses often become aware of a location ID issue when another business sharing the same phone line applies to connect to the NBN using the common location ID and unintentionally disconnects their service."

In other instances, the address used by the business differs from that stored by NBN -- for instance, Shop 1, 12 High Street versus 1A/12 High Street -- which doesn't stop the disconnection, but prevents NBN from connecting it until its order forms are updated.

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Elsewhere in the report, the TIO said it received almost 6,700 complaints, of which: Around 34% of all complaints were related to a provider taking little or no action; 30% related to businesses disputing fees; 18% complained about no service at all; 14% of complaints were about delays in receiving a connection; 9% had intermittent service; a further 9% related to the terms of an agreed resolution not being met; 1,033 complaints, or 5%, were due to misleading conduct by a provider when making a contract; and 4% were related due to a problem with a phone number because of a connection or transfer.

The report stated that the median time for small business complaints to close out was 16 days longer than the median time for residential customers. It also contained a number of milquetoast recommendations about businesses and providers working together to avoid the ills identified.

"The relationship between small businesses and their providers is vital to the businesses' ongoing success. Any issues between a small business and their provider in the delivery of a service can have significant consequences," TIO Judy Jones said.

"During government restrictions to curb the pandemic, many small businesses became solely reliant on phone and internet services to continue operating. As we begin the return to workplaces, our guidance around working together to fix faults and having a back-up plan may be crucial at this time."

Dismissing the rising proportion of small business complaints, the Communications Alliance instead proclaimed a 6.2% drop in overall numbers showed the industry had worked hard to improve customer experience.

"The report highlights what all parties can do to ensure small businesses get the best telco service possible, including a focus on ordering suitable communications services, providing accurate address details, managing faults and ensuring businesses have back-up plans in place," Comms Alliance CEO John Stanton said.

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