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Optus complaints ratio rises 45 percent as Telstra, Vodafone fall

Optus' complaints per 10,000 services has risen by almost 50 percent, with Telstra's dropping by 19 percent and Vodafone's by 66 percent.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has released its Telecommunications Complaints in Context report for July to September 2015, reporting that consumer complaints about telcos have decreased by more than 20 percent since last year, with Vodafone and Telstra improving their statistics as Optus' ratio worsens.

The overall complaints ratio [PDF], measured per 10,000 services in operation (SIO), stood at just 5.5 -- a drop of 20.29 percent year on year from the 6.9 reported in the same period last year, and 15.38 percent quarter on quarter, from the 6.5 reported in April to June.

The TIO said this was a "record low".

Telstra received 5.5 complaints per 10,000 SIO, a drop of 19.1 percent from the 6.8 recorded in the same period last year; Amaysim fell by 35.7 percent, from 1.4 complaints to just 0.9 complaints; and Pivotal decreased its complaints by 53.1 percent, from 3.2 per 10,000 SIO to 1.5.

Optus received the highest ratio of complaints, at 6.7 per 10,000 SIO. This signalled a drop of 21.18 percent quarter on quarter, but a rise of 45.7 percent year on year.

Vodafone Australia, meanwhile, saw 4.1 complaints per 10,000 SIO, a substantial decrease of 66.4 percent year on year.

"Our customers are at the heart of everything we do at Vodafone, so this is a very pleasing result, because it means we are delivering more of what our customers want," Vodafone director of Customer Service Errol van Graan said.

"We are listening to our customers and making improvements across the board -- in network, customer service, and products -- to be the mobile company they expect and deserve."

van Graan attributed Vodafone's low complaints ratio to customer uptake of self-service channels.

"Our customers have told us they appreciate the convenience and immediacy self-service allows, from checking data usage, activating roaming, or topping up a prepaid account directly on their smartphones," he said.

The TIO on Tuesday published its quarterly complaints statistics, revealing that overall complaints are at their lowest for nine years, numbering 26,023 during the quarter -- a 14.8 percent decrease from the 30,539 complaints recorded during the same period last year.

Issues with mobile services made up 40 percent of all complaints, while complaints about internet services contributed to 32 percent, and landline issues made up the remaining 28 percent of all complaints.

Billing and payments accounted for the highest proportion of all complaints, at 44.3 percent, followed by customer service, at 39.8 percent; faults, at 30.4 percent; complaints handling, at 26.9 percent; contracts, at 23.9 percent; credit management, at 17 percent; connections, at 12.1 percent; and other issues, at 5.9 percent.

Mobile complaints fell to 10,340, a substantial drop of 31.2 percent year on year from the 15,034 recorded over July to September 2014. Complaints about excess data charges also decreased, down 50.3 percent from 2,524 in the same quarter last year to 1,254 this year -- the lowest number in almost six years.

There were 46 telecommunications service providers with more than 25 complaints during the quarter, with Telstra leading the way at 11,988 complaints, trailed by Optus, at 5,109; TPG at 1,114 and iiNet at 1,072, for a combined number of 2,186; Vodafone Australia, at 2,081; Dodo, at 847; Virgin, at 380; M2 Commander, at 344; Primus, at 227; Vaya, at 178; Southern Phone and Spintel, both at 136; Exetel, at 111; Internode, at 100; and NBN, at 97.

ACN, Adam, Amaysim, Australian Private Networks, Blisstel, Boost Tel, Business Service Brokers, Club Telco, Comms Service OPS, Crunch, Ello, Engin, Foxtel, Fuzenet, Intelico, Lebara, Live Connected, Lycamobile, Medion, My Net Fone, Next Business, Smart Business, Just Telco, Letz Talk, Total, TransACT, VHA, and Westnet also saw complaints number more than 25.

The TIO's Annual Report 2014-15, published in October, revealed that while Telstra and Vodafone had improved their complaints statistics, Optus had increased substantially.

Optus saw an increase in total complaints of 31.5 percent, from 14,144 during FY14 to 18,601 in FY15, while iiNet customer complaints were up by 26 percent, from 3,051 complaints in 2013-14 to 3,844 in 2014-15.

Meanwhile, complaints about Telstra decreased by 4.3 percent, down to 55,529 for 2014-15, while Vodafone's dropped by 46.2 percent, from 35,876 to 19,311.

The TIO on Wednesday also revealed that complaints about the National Broadband Network (NBN) have risen over the last quarter: NBN complaints grew by 4.6 percent quarter on quarter to reach 2,262 during July to September 2015.

NBN argued, however, that with a greater number of premises having been connected this quarter, complaints as a proportion have dropped.

"The number [of] complaints is actually going down if you consider the rapid rise in connections this year," an NBN spokesperson told ZDNet.

"At 2 July this year, 489,158 premises were active on the network, and that grew to 612,433 by 1 October, or the end of the quarter, a rise of 25 percent."

The TIO's annual report had revealed a sharp 68.6 percent increase in complaints by consumers about the NBN. Connection delays made up 1,360 of NBN complaints, while 595 were about fully unusable services and 384 were about missed connection appointments.