The number was down a little on the previous year, but the number of complaints about mobile carriers showed a sharp increase.
In the 2011-12 financial year the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received 193,702 consumer complaints, or over 500 a day. This was a small decrease (2%) on the previous year, according to the TIO’s annual report, released today. But complaints about mobile phones increased by 9%, from 112,376 to 122,834.
But Ombudsman Simon Cohen said things now appear to be improving. “There has been a clear trend since April 2012 of reduced complaints, with the last quarter of 2011-12 being our quietest for almost two years,” Mr Cohen said. “This is a positive sign that reflects the focus by a number of telcos on improving their customer service.”
Cohen said an increasing number of complaints made to the TIO were about mobile phones, reflecting the rising use of smart phones. Poor coverage, billing disputes and the quality of information given to consumers at the point of sale were the common themes in these complaints.
The TIO Annual Report highlights continuing billing and credit issues related to mobile services as a particular concern. Complaints about bill accuracy and usage charges, and disputes about financial over-commitment, all increased substantially last year.
This includes the following specific issues:
- financial over-commitment due to inadequate spend management tools (15,752 issues – double the number of the previous year)
- disputes over the total amount of a bill (13,943 issues – one third increase)
- disputed Internet usage charges (10,556 issues – 150% increase)
- disputed roaming charges (4,186 issues – 69% increase).
“Complaints about unexpectedly high bills and unnecessary financial over-commitment point to the urgent need for strong spend management rules,” Mr Cohen said. “Many of these are included in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code. While these rules do not yet apply until 2013, it is a positive sign that some service providers have already taken steps to introduce better consumer notifications about high usage.”
The TIO annual report also shows a rise in complaints about credit default listings. Complaints about consumers being credit default listed while their debt was in dispute increased 18% from 3,700 to 4,370. There was also a 16% increase in complaints about consumers being credit default listed without proper notification, up from 3,220 to 3,730.
“I am very concerned about the increase in the number of complaints where credit default listings are disputed,” Cohen said “Credit listings can have very significant impacts on people – affecting applications for credit, including for housing and personal loans. Any credit default listing should only occur after the correct procedures have been followed.”