Home Government Technology Regulation Mobile coverage complaints down, but excess data charges up

Mobile coverage complaints down, but excess data charges up

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received 36,256 new complaints in the first quarter of the year. That is less than last year, but complaints about excess data charges have increased significantly.

The volume was 8.7 % more than in October-December 2013, but 9.4% less than at the same time in 2013.

The data is contained in the TIO’s quarterly TIO Talks report, released today. For the third quarter in a row, the TIO received less than 20,000 complaints about mobile services, which make up about half of all complaints. Complaints about mobile phones themselves have dropped 19.4% when compared to the same quarter last year.

"The reduction in mobile phone complaints is mainly due to fewer complaints about faults, which have almost halved compared to the same time last year," Ombudsman Simon Cohen said. But an emerging issue in mobile complaints is excess data usage charges. The TIO data shows that while complaints about problems like slow data speeds have decreased 67% compared to last year, disputes over excess data charges have increased 30%.

"As the speed of phones and networks has increased, so has the data used by consumers,” said Cohen. “But the plans they sign up for may not be matching their needs.”

New complaints about Internet and landline services increased 20.6% and 15.9% respectively, caused by a higher number of fault and connection related complaints. Year on year, the increases were modest – 4.8% for Internet and 2.9% for landline complaints.

One in three Internet billing disputes also included issues with faults or connections. A common theme in these complaints was dissatisfaction with having to pay for a service that was faulty or had not been connected by the agreed date.

"Where services are not connected or operating, it is not fair for consumers to be charged for the service. This has been an emerging issue in the last year," Cohen said.

TIO Talks also says mobile apps and in-app purchases charged through consumers’ mobile bills should be covered by Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code, following complaints about apps that are hard to distinguish from MPS, but are not covered by the code.

Victoria, South Australia, and NSW and ACT were the states with the most complaints in proportion to their population. Victorians made 1.8 complaints per 1,000 people; South Australians, 1.7 per 1000; and NSW and ACT residents, 1.6 per 1000.

TIO Talks is available as a PDF online on the TIO’s website at www.tio.com.au


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.