Complaints rising against Telstra, Optus, Vodafone: TIO

Complaints about Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Amaysim all rose over the quarter, according to the TIO's latest complaints in context statistics.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Telco complaints are on the rise again, with Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, and Amaysim all clocking in at higher complaints ratios under the latest findings published by the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

During the quarter to June 2017, Telstra had a complaints ratio of 10 complaints per 10,000 services in operation (SIO), up from 9.3 last quarter.

Similarly, Optus rose from 9.3 to 10.1 complaints per 10,000 SIO over the quarter, as the average across all providers rose from 8.4 to 9.

While Vodafone Australia maintained a complaints ratio of half the industry average, its 4.5 complaints per 10,000 SIO was still a rise from last quarter's 3.9, and Amaysim rose slightly from 0.9 to 1.

The only telco that managed to reduce its complaints ratio was Pivotel, whose complaints fell from 1.3 to just 0.3 per 10,000 SIO.

Every quarter, the TIO, in conjunction with Communications Alliance, publishes a Complaints in Context report covering landline, mobile, and internet service complaints from residential and small business consumers.

Last quarter, Telstra had attributed its rise in complaints to the process of moving a significant number of customers from traditional fixed-line broadband onto National Broadband Network (NBN) services -- something that Vodafone does not yet have to contend with as it is not launching NBN services until later this year.

"We recognise this transition can involve disruption for some of our customers," a Telstra spokesperson told ZDNet.

"The data shows that a significant volume of TIO complaints are for customer experiences relating to NBN. There are challenges here for the broader industry.

"We are working with NBN where we believe changes can help improve the NBN experience. We're also working on a number of initiatives to reduce complaints overall as part of improving the customer experience."

The transition of customers to the NBN is causing an upswing in complaints, with hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) customers switching between retail service providers (RSPs) a recent issue.

"Aussie Broadband can confirm that we are currently escalating about 30 percent of customer connections that are using HFC technology," Aussie Broadband acting managing director John Reisinger told ZDNet last week.

"We are working closely with NBN Co to improve this figure."

In response, NBN said it created a dedicated churn team to work through issues as quickly as possible.

"We acknowledge there have been some delays in the HFC rollout due to high end-user demand and the complexity involved in connecting some premises to the NBN HFC network," an NBN spokesperson said.

"With respect to churn, in some cases this is taking longer than we would like ... we have stood up a dedicated team to resolve churn orders as quickly as possible and identify root cause for ongoing improvement."

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is set to investigate customer experience in moving across to the NBN after the government ordered it to look into the matter.

"21 industry participants including retailers, wholesale providers, and NBN Co Ltd will receive notices seeking a range of data on issues such as fault handling, connection timeframes, appointment keeping, telephone number porting, and more," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said last week.

"This information will be used to identify where customer issues most commonly arise and how those issues can be either avoided or resolved more quickly. It will also help reduce the passing of customer complaints between retailers and NBN."

In May, the TIO's consumer complaints statistics for the second half of calendar 2016 revealed that NBN complaints had doubled again.

NBN complaints numbered 7,512 during the six-month period, a rise of 117.5 percent year on year. Complaints about NBN internet services jumped by 141.3 percent year on year, while complaints about NBN landline services rose by 92 percent.

Ombudsman Judi Jones pointed out that the rate of increase in NBN's complaints was slower than the rate of premises being connected, while NBN said the TIO's report represented a "downward trend in NBN complaints figures".

According to NBN, when taking into account the number of new premises activated, its complaints actually fell by 30 percent since the most recent half-year period.

The TIO also revealed that complaints about NBN connection delays had dropped from 1,669 complaints in the fourth quarter of 2015-16 to 1,545 in the first quarter of FY17, and then further down to 1,539 in the second quarter of the financial year.

This came despite the number of premises connected during the quarter increasing from 195,686 during Q4 to 279,639 in Q1 and 274,291 in Q2.

While connection delay complaints fell, however, fault issues rose during the same period: There were 2,113 complaints during the fourth quarter of the 2015-16 financial year. This dropped to 1,988 complaints during the first quarter of FY17, but then rose again to 2,460 complaints in the second quarter.

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