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Complaints up by 31% as customer service levels reach a new low

ACCAN says the record-high complaints figures released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) today are the final piece of evidence the regulator, the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA), needs to justify strong action to bring the self-regulated industry under control.

 Figures released by the TIO report 60,000 new complaints from January to March this year – more than 20,000 per month – and up by 31% on the record-high in the previous quarter.

ACCAN says it is almost certain that the 2010-2011 financial year will be the worst year on record for Australian telecommunications customers. 

Problems relating to mobiles surged by 50% and comprised 6 out of ten of all new complaints. Complaints about Vodafone were up on the average for the second quarter in a row with 14,000 new complaints.  

 ACCAN says Vodafone’s well-publicised network problems alone don’t account for the record figures with complaints against Telstra and Optus also growing rapidly in the same period.

 The ACMA launched a major inquiry in March last year due to unacceptably high complaints levels in 2008-09 but despite being under the spotlight the industry has plummeted to new lows of customer service. 

 “The industry will point the finger at Vodafone and say, yet again, that there is no problem. The truth of the matter is that complaints about customer service and complaint-handling issues continue to climb across the board,” said ACCAN Chief Executive Teresa Corbin.

 “The ACMA announced a major inquiry in March last year called Reconnecting the Customer, to address customer service and complaint-handling issues that were spiralling out of control back in 2008. Now – right when the ACMA is set to release its recommendations from the inquiry – the industry produces its highest number of complaints in a quarter.

“This disastrous result at such a critical time would be laughable if the impact of this industry’s inability to get it right didn’t affect so many millions of Australians every single day. Every  telco customer in Australia has a horror story about dealing with telco providers – no matter who you have a service with.

Customers who reported being given the wrong advice by their telco rose by more than 125%, complaints about faults were up by 140% and there were increases across the board relating to billing, contracts, credit management and complaint handling.

“The Ombudsman has called this a ‘grim’ quarter for telco consumers, we’d think that’s putting it mildly. This is the highest ever number of complaints in a three-month period to the Ombudsman since records began.

“Customer service and complaint handling across this industry remains unacceptable. Even the banks – which draw ire from just about everyone – only receive 23,000 complaints in a whole year a year about the way they do business. The telcos get 60,000 in a single quarter – there’s no doubt this is the worst industry to deal with in the country.

“We are eagerly awaiting the ACMA’s recommendations from the RTC inquiry. There is no choice left for the regulator other than to regulate.”

Media contact: Elise Davidson 0409 966 931

Download: TIO complaints stats [Word Document - 67 KB]
Download: TIO complaints stats [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 41.06 KB]