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The fall in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) highlights the positive power of effective industry regulation, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Complaints data published today in the TIO’s Annual Report 2018-2019 shows that complaints about phone and internet services fell 21.1 per cent in the last financial year. Among these 132,387 complaints, the TIO identified over 50 possible systemic issues, of which over a third were refer to regulators.

“While there is still further work to be done, these latest statistics show that new regulation of the telco industry is starting to work,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

“The TIO’s investigations, systemic reports and referrals to the regulator not only shine a light on poor practices in the industry, but allow the ACMA the opportunity to enforce consumer-focused regulation such as the Complaints-handling Standard.”

The large number of complaints returning to the TIO unresolved suggests the complexity of problems facing small businesses and consumers has increased since 2017-2018.

The latest TIO Annual Report also shows that complaints about internet services (43,164) have overtaken complaints about mobile services (40,103) as the most complained about service type during this period. With internet services now a necessity in the day-to-day lives of Australians, this is a disappointing result.

“ACCAN has repeatedly called for reliability consumer protections to be extended to include fixed-line broadband services from all telcos,” explained Ms Corbin. “Access to the internet is now essential needs to be regulated as such.”

In response to Part B of the Consumer Safeguards Review, ACCAN also proposed that connection and repair times for fixed-line services should be at least the same as the existing Customer Service Guarantee and should be defined in terms of days, rather than working days.

As the consumer voice for Australian phone and internet users, ACCAN was disappointed to see that no action or delayed action by a provider was among the top complaint issues for consumers across internet, mobile and multiple service types.

“When you have an issue with your phone or internet provider, you expect them to do their best to solve it. If there is breakdown in communication between telcos and their customers, we need to take action to ensure people aren’t being left in the dark.”

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