Telco complaints soar to almost 500,000

Telco complaints soar to almost 500,000

Industry watchdog calls for more action and customer compensation

A new industry report has found a 54 per cent increase in customer complaints against telecoms providers between 2007/2008 to 2008/2009.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) said two of the biggest contributors to the 230,065 rise in complaints were poor customer service and complaint handling. A total of 481,418 complaints were handled by the group

“The increases reflect the greater take-up of broadband Internet services and a greater variety of services offered through mobile phones used by Australian consumers,” TIO ombudsman, Deirdre O’Donnell, said.

But while the TIO labelled the number of complaints as “unacceptably high”, the news wasn’t entirely negative, with 90 per cent of complaints solved following referral back to the service providers.

Consumer lobby group, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), said the TIO’s report proved telcos had “failed to meet acceptable standards of service”.

“ACCAN is calling for the introduction of a consumer compensation payment for consumers who have experienced the hassle and inconvenience of using the TIO to basic resolve disputes,” ACCAN CEO, Allan Asher, said. “We think it’s only fair that a $50 compensation payment should apply to consumers affected by poor customer service.

“This payment would be an incentive for telcos to get it right in the first instance and recognises the real costs of giving customers the run around.”

Asher also called for the Government to modify relevant legislation to include provisions of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code along with performance benchmarks.

An Optus spokesperson claimed the telco’s share of industry complaints was below its market share.

“However, we recognise we have improvements to make in how we handle customers calls and complaints,” the spokesperson said. “Optus is committed to improving its performance in customer experience and will continue to work closely with the TIO on this shared objective.”

ARN contacted the Communications Alliance, which is a peak body for the communications industry, but it declined to comment. Telstra was also contacted, but did not respond.

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