Complaints about mobile phones increased by nine per cent to 122,834 from 112,376 in 2010-11, according to the 2012 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report. New telco complaints fell in 2011-2012 to 193,702, down 2 per cent, according to the report.
“There has been a clear trend, since April 2012, of reduced complaints, with the last quarter of 2011-12 being our quietest for almost two years,” Ombudsman, Simon Cohen, said. “This is a positive sign that reflects the focus by a number of telcos on improving their customer service.”
Two out of three complaints made to the industry ombudsman were about mobile phones, showing the increasing use of smart phones.
Poor coverage, billing disputes and the quality of information given to consumers at the point of sale were common issues in these complaints.
The report highlighted ongoing billing and credit issues related to mobile services of particular concern, as disputes about financial overcommitment, all increased substantially during 2011-12.
Specifically, these include disputes around roaming charges, Internet usage charges and bill amounts.
“Complaints about unexpectedly high bills and unnecessary financial overcommitment point to the urgent need for strong spend management rules, including those that are included in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code,” Cohen said.
“While these rules do not apply until 2013, or in certain cases 2014, it is a positive sign that some service providers have already taken steps to introduce better consumer notifications about high usage.”
Credit default listings were another big area of complaints, which increased Complaints about consumers being credit default listed while their debt was in dispute increased 18 per cent from 3700 to 4370. There was also a 16 per cent increase in complaints about consumers being credit default listed without proper notification, up from 3220 to 3730.
“I am very concerned about the increase in the number of complaints where credit default listings are disputed,” Cohen said. “Credit listings can have very significant impacts on people - affecting applications for credit, including for housing and personal loans. Any credit default listing should only occur after the correct procedures have been followed."
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy, was impressed by the reduction in consumer complaints.
“As an independent referee of telco complaints, the TIO not only ensures that complaints are heard and resolved, they are a permanent reminder to service providers of their obligations to their customers," Senator Conroy, said..
“While the decrease in overall complaints is encouraging, complaints associated with smart phones and tablets, such as bill shock, roaming charges, and data usage, continue to be of concern to the TIO.
“The telecommunications industry should be mindful of this, and ensure they do what they can to resolve complaints as they arise."
The TIO was put in place by the Keating Government in 1993. The Gillard Government built on this initiative with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, which came into effect on September 1, 2012.