Wednesday, 17 September 2014 14:30

Not so fast on telco complaints, says ACCAN Featured

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While the industry congratulates itself, consumer group ACCAN says much more needs to be done to improve telco customer service, particularly with data charges.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has issued its response to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) finding that complaints about telcos have declined.

ACCAN said when the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code was put in place in 2012 that it hoped to see a 20% reduction in complaints. With these latest figures this has been realised. But it still sees the need for improvement in many areas.

“It’s pleasing to see the positive impact of the changes in the Code, with complaints dropping 27.5% since it was introduced” said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin. "But despite the positives, the latest TIO report has identified some problem areas which need further attention from the telcos. Excess data charges continue to be an issue, with a substantial increase in complaints by 27.2% over the last year.

“These complaints are not surprising given that recent research from the CSIRO put the average monthly mobile data usage at 2GB, while the ACMA reported that the average monthly subscription is only 1GB. We know from consumers that alerts sent out by telcos when their data allowances are almost used are appreciated but there’s obviously a need for improvements - such as receiving data usage alerts in real time, not after high data costs have already been charged.

“With the abundance of apps and combination of smartphones and tablets being used at 4G speeds (and possible sharing of data across devices), consumers can chew through data allowances at a fast pace. These complaints have now overtaken those regarding mobile coverage issues. ACCAN’s tip sheet on how to use less data on your smartphone is helpful to consumers who find themselves exceeding their data allowances.

Corbin says half the complaints about excess data involved a disputed bill amount of more than $440, which seems to indicate a mismatch between plans and actual usage.

“Consumers should check their bills regularly to ensure they aren’t getting hit with fees for excess data. If consumers find themselves using more data than their plan allows for then it might be time to shop around for a more suitable deal. Websites such as WhistleOut are great tools for comparing plans from different telcos,” said Corbin.

Complaints regarding international roaming also dropped by 35% noted Corbin. “Consumers have benefited from better roaming plans and alerts, but people should be aware of how much roaming can cost with a significant number of complaints concerning amounts over $10,000. One, where a phone was stolen overseas, was for an astounding $571,000.”


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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

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 weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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