Complaints regarding excess data usage charges are on the rise in Australia according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
This is despite a 19.4 per cent drop in mobile phone complaints in the first quarter of calendar 2014 when compared to the previous corresponding period.
The ombudsman received a total of 36,256 new complaints between January and March. For the third consecutive quarter, less than 20,000 of these were about mobile services, although the category still represents 51 per cent of all complaints.
"The reduction in mobile phone complaints is mainly due to fewer complaints about faults, which have almost halved compared to the same time last year," ombudsman Simon Cohen said.
But while faults problems (including slow data speeds) have dropped 67 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2013, disputes over excess data charges have increased 30 per cent. The TIO describes it as an emerging issue.
Cohen said that the increased speed of network has resulted in growth in data usage by consumers, which means customers’ plans may not match requirements, consequently ending in additional fees.
The TIO also reported that complaints about Internet and landline services increased 20.6 and 15.9 per cent from the previous quarter, respectively. The year-over-year figures sit at 4.8 and 2.9 per cent. These were caused by a higher number of fault and connection-related matters.
A third of Internet disputes where customers reported a billing issue also included problems with faults or connections.
The TIO said the common theme was dissatisfaction with consumers having to pay for services which were fault or not connected by an agreed date.
"Where services are not connected or operating, it is not fair for consumers to be charged for the service. This has been an emerging issue in the last year,” Cohen said.