Home Telecoms & NBN Complaints to TIO about NBN rise strongly

The TIO's latest report shows complaints relating to services delivered over the NBN have increased disproportionately.

Some media outlets are likely to focus on the raw number of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman concerning the NBN — 22,827, up 203.9% from the year-ago period — but it makes more sense to look at the growth in complaints relative to the growth in NBN-connected premises.

The TIO is clearly aware of that, as in its previous six-monthly update it observed that "the rate of increase in these complaints is slower than the rate of new premises connected to the national broadband network".

But that was not the case this time: where 4.5 complaints were received for every 1000 activated premises during 2H16, the figure rose to 6.7 for 2H17.

Overall, the TIO received 84,914 complaints during the second half of 2017, up 28.7% on the year-ago period.

The TIO is an industry-funded organisation that aims to help resolve disputes between consumers or small businesses and their phone and Internet providers.

“The telecommunications industry in Australia continues to experience significant change. An increasing range of products and services are being offered to consumers, expectations for the quality of phone and Internet services are high, and the rollout of the national broadband network is changing the way we use telecommunications services," said ombudsman Judi Jones.

“However, consumers still seem to be facing the same problems, particularly with their bills and the customer service they receive. Confidence in services being updated or transferred reliably, faulty equipment, and poor service quality were also recorded as key issues. Additionally, the wider issues relating to phone or internet problems such as debt management are concerning.”

A total of 84,914 complaints were received in the second half of 2017, a 28.7% increase on the corresponding period in 2016. Even though the numbers are still growing strongly, the rate of growth has eased slightly from the 33.8% reported for 2H16.

The TIO pointed out that complaints show some seasonality, and therefore it chose not to compare the latest numbers with those for the first half of 2017.

A total of 74,729 of the 2H17 complaints concerned residential services, and 9947 were from small businesses. The remaining 238 came from not-for-profit organisations.

Complaints were most commonly about multiple services (eg, phone and Internet). They accounted for 30.8% of complaints. Complaints about mobile phone services (29.4%) and Internet services (28%) were close behind.

Only 11.1% of complaints related to landlines, and 0.8% to property damage or access.

Comparisons with the pattern of complaints in 2H16 cannot be made due to changes in the TIO's categories.

Complaints in 2H17 were most commonly about charges and fees (45%), closely followed by provider response (43%).

Complaints may involve more than one issue, but it does seem that providers are making a rod for their own backs by failing to deal with customers' complaints properly and promptly. Indeed, this writer's experience is that it is practically impossible to have complaints handled by someone who can actually deal with the issue - as opposed to merely reciting a script that doesn't cover the exact situation - unless you take the matter to the TIO.

Other common complaint categories were poor service quality (22%), issues around connections or changing provider (16%) and "no service" (15%).

Again, the TIO has changed the complaint categories, so direct comparisons cannot be made with 2H16.

The TIO's July-December 2017 Six Month Update should be available for download here.


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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.


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