The Australian consumer watchdog received 4,384 complaints and enquiries about the local communications industry in the financial year ending 2017, almost 60 per cent more than the year prior.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published its annual report on competition and price changes in the telecommunications sector in the 2016-17 financial year on 21 March, revealing increases in data download rates and a fall in prices for a host of telco services across the board.
However, the ACCC also reported a marked increase in the number of telco-related complaints it received during the year, with the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout appearing to play a role in the boost.
Indeed, across the board, the ACCC saw a 58 per cent year-on-year increase in communications sector-related complaints.
“Complaints to the ACCC regarding the NBN increased significantly during the year,” the ACCC said in its report. “However, all of the key fixed and mobile service providers saw significant increases in complaints, ranging from 40 per cent for Telstra to 124 per cent for iiNet.”
The consumer watchdog pointed out that the increase in complaints mirrors the latest full-year figures by the Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), which late last year flagged a rapid growth in the number of complaints it had received about services delivered via the National Broadband Network (NBN) as a cause for concern.
Specifically, the TIO said in October last year that complaints about services delivered via the NBN increased by more than 100 per cent during the 2016-17 financial year, compared to 2015/16, which included an increase in complaints about connection delays and reliability issues, such as faults.
“Considering this data alongside the TIO complaints data suggests that internet services and specifically NBN services are emerging as key contributors to consumer dissatisfaction in the communications sector,” the ACCC said in its report.
“Issues regarding the migration and connection process as well as the quality and the performance of services over the NBN not meeting expectations are likely to be significant sources of these complaints,” it said.
The ACCC receives complaints from consumers and businesses about a wide range of issues, while the Commission doesn’t resolve individual disputes, it does consider complaints, and complaints which would be best resolved by other agencies are forwarded.
Over 46 per cent of contacts raised concerns that were referred to a more appropriate organisation for resolution, particularly the TIO, the ACCC said.
The bulk of the complaints about the telco sector received by the ACCC during the 12-month period related to misleading or deceptive conduct, according to the new report, equating to about 1,831 complaints.
Complaints regarding conduct such as false representations, guarantees as to acceptable quality and misleading or deceptive conduct were some of the key sources of complaints this year.