Broadband consumers have been warned about the dangers of using file sharing software after complaints arose from excessive download charges.
Complaints about broadband services have increased by 45 per cent in the last 12 months according to statistics released by Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), John Pinnock.
From April 2002 until March 2003, the TIO received 1151 complaints about contracts, faults and provisioning difficulties.
Pinnock said the rise in complaints was in line with an increase in consumer take-up of broadband technologies, and was not of itself a cause for concern.
“Complaint numbers are always high when it comes to new technologies,” he said. “It can take months or even years for consumers and the industry to become accustomed to new methods and systems for billing and provision.
Pinnock said he is concerned that some consumers are unaware of all of the conditions of use for services, ending up with high bills as a result.
A spokesperson for the TIO said the providers were given sufficient time to explain the complaints. The TIO had the power to refer any disputes to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and the Australian Communications Authority.
The spokesperson said legislation was in place which stated that all ISP’s and telephony providers must be members of the TIO. Most of the complaints arose when consumers had a lack of knowledge when dealing with new technology.
“Broadband is a new technology and consumers are being encouraged to use it, without investigating the main terms of the contract,” she said.
“Our [TIO’s] role is to make users more aware of the charges that may be accumulated by using the service.”
Pinnock said that when employing file sharing software users should be aware that it was possible for files to be uploaded from a computer - even when people were not physically using the computer.
He said users should ensure their Internet service was safeguarded by using a secure password and installing up to date virus software.