Fault and technical issues continue to be the driving force behind many of the complaints by Australians about services from local telecommunications and internet service providers, according to a new report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
In its recently released Reconnecting the Customer— Tracking consumer outcomes: 2016 update (RTC2) report, the ACMA revealed that, despite falling rates of billing-related qualms among consumers, faults, technical issues, and coverage issues have been the driving forces behind a rise in fixed internet complaints.
The report's findings also suggest that, while there have been positive improvements in billing-related complaints, there are still
opportunities for further reductions, given that nearly one in four consumers is
still receiving unexpectedly high bills and nearly one in three has
complained to their provider in the last 12 months, according to the Authority.
Overall, the regulatory body believes that the improvements it has seen over the past year may be a result of the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TPC) Code that took effect in 2012.
“In good news for consumers, fewer [consumers] are experiencing unexpectedly high bills, and they are making better use of spend management tools to monitor and track their expenditure,’ said acting ACMA chairman, Richard Bean.
“They have a clearer understanding about the cost of their communications services, and are better able to plan and budget accordingly,” he said.
According to the ACMA, the incidence of consumers receiving unexpectedly high bills has fallen from 33 per cent to 19 per cent since 2013 for post-paid mobile phones, and from 26 per cent to 10 per cent over the same period for product bundles.
Additionally, for those unexpectedly high bills, the extra amount consumers have to pay has reduced from $94 to $60.
In terms of overall complaints, the Authority said that incidences have decreased from 36 per cent to 31 per cent in the past three years, with a significant decrease in complaints related to mobile phone services.
"Some perennial customer service issues remain, however, and service hotspots are emerging as consumers engage with new technologies and services,” Bean added.
“For example, consumers’ experience of complaint resolution rates and time frames for resolving complaints remains largely unchanged over the past three years,” he said.
Businesses report NBN issues
A separate yet related study undertaken by the ACMA has revealed that more than two-fifths of connected businesses (43 per cent) reported experiencing National Broadband Network (NBN) connection problems that affected the functioning of their business.
Ongoing service issues were the most common problems experienced, with three-quarters of those who experienced problems being affected, according to the Migrating to the NBN: The experience of Australian consumers report.
For connected consumers, satisfaction with internet speeds was higher than for those who were not connected.
“The ACMA’s research shows that as consumers adopt new technologies and they become mainstream, we see consumer service expectations change,” Bean added.
“These changing expectations align with recent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) complaints data highlighting a 35 per cent increase in new complaints about internet services over the last financial year,” he said.
The ACMA said the research is informing the regulatory's body’s planned targeted compliance and education priorities for 2017.
According to the Authority, one particular compliance priority will be to ensure retail service providers are adhering to their requirements under the TCP Code as more customers migrate to the NBN.
The body added that the insights may also form potential enhancements to the TCP Code when it is reviewed again in late 2017.