Internet services are increasingly being used on mobile phones and they are driving up the number of consumer complaints, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsmen (TIO).
The TIO an independent authority that receive, investigate and resolve disputes between consumers and telcos over mobile or Internet services.
It has tendered a submission to the Federal Government’s Media Convergence Review which review explores how technological advances have altered the media landscape since the 1990s.
“While our jurisdiction does not include handling complaints about content services, we do nonetheless see instances of complaints in relation to converged services,” the TIO said in its submission.
In 2010, the TIO recorded 4143 disputes over Internet charges on mobile services, up 71 per cent from the previous year.
Such figures could be explained by the proliferation of mobile phones but the TIO considered a number of other factors including lack of consumer knowledge and failure of telco sales staff to educate customers at the point of sale.
Customers often report that they were unaware they were using mobile Internet services or were oblivious to the kinds of charges using those services could rack up.
A rise in complaints is not only limited to converged mobile and Internet devices. The torrent of multimedia content available over the Internet has lead to consumer confusion as data limits are exceeded and additional charges are incurred.
The number of disputes over Internet charges through an Internet service reached 6851 in 2010.
TIO also raised concerns over the different approaches disputes between Pay TV and IPTV are handled as Pay TV is not identified as a carriage service and does not fall under the TIO’s jurisdiction.
With the effects of converged services cropping up in its work, the TIO recommends the Convergence Review include a “specific requirement to take into account appropriate settings to ensure consumers are properly protected in a converged world".
This means considering policy parameters and “including appropriate mechanisms for redress for citizen complaints”.
Submissions for the review closed on January 28.