While the overall trend in the Australian telecommunications industry is falling complaints, Telstra has gone against the tide as its total number of complaints has risen by 11.3% to 74,135 for 2020-21, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman annual report.
Against its major competitors, Optus had a 28% drop to 18,900, Vodafone posted an 11.6% drop to 5,668, stablemate brand TPG had a 40% drop to just over 3,900, and iiNet had a 49% decline to just shy of 3,000.
Of the other top 10 providers, Southern Phone saw a 20% jump to 1,560, Dodo claimed a 33% drop to 1,060, Aussie Broadband hit just shy of 1,050 complaints which was a 37% increase, Boost had a 28% lift in complaints to 964, and Foxtel saw complaints to the TIO grow by almost a third to 693.
The TIO said the percentage of complaints covered by the top 10 providers increased from 92.2% to 92.9%.
Overall, complaints decreased 6% to 119,400 for the year to June 30. It marks the third year overall complaints have declined, and the lowest level in five years.
The leading issue was no or delayed action by telcos, which saw a 7.2% increase to 14,700 complaints and made up 37% of all complaints. This was followed by service and equipment fees, which dropped by over 2,000 complaints to make up 30%; delay establishing a service declined 14% to constitute 18% of complaints; and no phone or internet service was mostly steady and made up 16.7% of complaints.
For small businesses, complaints were up 6.6% to just shy of 19,700.
"The complaints picture for this year is mixed," Ombudsman Judi Jones said.
"It's been a challenging year for telcos and consumers, and we acknowledge industry efforts to reduce complaints. However, we saw an increase in the proportion of complaints returning to us as unresolved, which challenged our response times. This resulted in frustration for consumers wanting to have their phone or internet problems addressed quickly.
"The trend in small business complaints is concerning. Small businesses need reliable phone and internet services, and useful support when those services aren't working as they should."
Last month, the TIO completed a systemic investigation into how local telcos are dealing with customers facing financial hardship, and while saying most have "robust" policies, they are not applied consistently.