The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received a surge in new complaints related to the National Broadband Network (NBN) during the financial year ending June 2016, with connection delays, service issues, and network dropout topping the list of issues raised by consumers.
“We saw nearly a 100 per cent increase in the number of NBN related complaints this year, but the rate of growth is lower than the growth of active services” Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Judi Jones, said.
"Delays in connections to the network, faults including unusable services, and dropout of services were regularly reported, which is of concern."
According to the TIO’s latest annual report, published on 17 November, Australians made 112,518 new complaints to the independent dispute resolution service provider during the past financial year, with NBN complaints on the increase.
During the period, new complaints about mobile services fell, while internet and NBN-related complaints both rose significantly. In fact, new complaints about faults on NBN services surged by 147.8 per cent, according to the report.
At the same time, complaints about NBN connections rose by 63.2 per cent, with NBN complaints now representing 11.9 per cent of all new complaints to the TIO.
"We have been scaling up rapidly and we are now activating close to 29,000 end users per week (this grows every month)," an nbn spokesperson said in a statement.
"However, from an nbn perspective, one fault or complaint is one too many, and we will continue to enhance our construction and activation processes and work with our RSPs to improve service levels and customer satisfaction."
New complaints about internet services, in general, rose by 22 per cent to the highest level in five years.
“Consumers told us that slow data speed was the biggest problem with internet services,” Jones said.
"New complaints about internet data speed increased by 48 per cent. Consumers also made an increased number of complaints about long waits for connections and repairing unreliable services."
Meanwhile, new complaints about mobile, landline and internet services dropped 9.6 per cent during the year.
The decline, however, appears to have since levelled out, according to the TIO, with complaints increasing again over the past nine months.
From July to September 2016, new complaints rose by 25.7 per cent on the same period last year. Across all service types, billing and payments, customer service, faults, complaint handling, and contracts were the most common complaints, according to the TIO.
New complaints about Vodafone dropped by 59.5 per cent compared to last year, there was a 48.2 per cent increase in new complaints about iiNet in the year since the company was acquired by TPG.
For its part, TPG saw a 7.4 per cent increase in new
complaints, while Optus received 18.2 per cent more new complaints in the
period, largely due to landline and internet services complaints.
More than a quarter of the new complaints received by the TIO came from regional and rural Australia, with the organisation seeing six per cent increase in the proportion of new regional and rural complaints.
There was a 28.8 per cent decrease in the number of new complaints about mobiles, to the lowest level in nine years, while complaints about traditional problem areas such as coverage, excess data, and roaming charges all decreased.
“Complaints about mobile services have reduced due to better product offerings from telcos, including higher data allowances and increased investment in mobile infrastructure,” Jones added.
The annual report follows the publication of the TIO’s complaints per services in operation for the September quarter data, which showed Vodafone, Amaysim, and Pivotel picking up a greater number of complaints than in previous quarters.
In the September results, the TIO received 6.2 new complaints per 10,000 services in operation (SIO) in relation to Vodafone.
Meanwhile, Telstra received six complaints per 10,000 SIOs, and Optus claimed 7.2 per 10,000 SIOs.
According to the latest research by market research firm, Kantar, Vodafone was among the handful of local telcos that saw customer numbers fall for the year ending September, along with Virgon Mobile, and TPG.
In the same period, Telstra, Optus, Aldi Mobile and Amaysim grew their market share.