Telco complaints ‘still too high’

Telco complaints ‘still too high’

Despite a fall in complaint levels during the financial year ending June 2019

Credit: Dreamstime

Consumer complaints about the country’s telecommunications providers are still too high, despite a drop over 2018-19, according to the chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Nerida O’Loughlin. 

Complaint levels during the financial year ending June 2019 dropped from a high of 124 complaints per 10,000 services in the second quarter to 97 in the final quarter of 2018–19, according to the ACMA’s Telecommunications complaints handling 2018-19 report. 

“This demonstrates that the initiatives driven by the government and the sector are gaining traction and customer service is improving,” O’Loughlin said. “It must be acknowledged however, that complaint levels are still too high.”

Altogether, local telcos received a total of 1.4 million complaints over the full 2018–19 financial year. However, the median time taken to resolve the complaints received during the year decreased from six to five days over the course of the 12-month period.

Complaints about broadband services delivered over the National Broadband Network (NBN) have also gone down during the course of the year, averaging 193 per 10,000 services, compared to complaints about non-NBN fixed broadband networks, which average 369.   

It should be noted, however, that voice-only services over the NBN were consistently the most complained about service during 2018–19, according to the report. In the June 2019 quarter, for example, the rate of complaints about NBN voice-only services was 488 per 10,000 services in operation, or nearly one in 20.

At the same time, the rate of complaints about hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) broadband services delivered over the NBN was, by a small margin, attracted the highest level of complaints of all the NBN access technologies in the June 2019 quarter, with 300 complaints per 10,000 services in operation.

This equates to a complaint being recorded in relation to three per cent of HFC services in the June 2019 quarter, a reduction from approximately 3.9 per cent in March 2019.

“Some of the challenges with the HFC rollout appear to be represented in the complaints data, with complaints peaking in the third quarter at 387 complaints per 10,000 services and declining to 300 in the final quarter,” O’Loughlin said.        

 NBN broadband complaints, by access technology (per 10,000 services in operation)Credit: ACMA
NBN broadband complaints, by access technology (per 10,000 services in operation)

The report also revealed that complaints about NBN services delivered over a satellite connection were the lowest of all the NBN access technologies throughout 2018-19, equating to just 55 complaints per 10,000 services in operation reported in the June 2019 quarter.

“This shows that the maturity of technology does impact the complaint numbers,” O’Loughlin said. 

Mobile services had the greatest volume of services in operation -- roughly 21.8 million in the June 2019 quarter -- yet received the lowest number of complaints per services in operation during the year, with the rate of complaints declining each quarter.

The latest report also saw the ACMA make a point of chastising telco providers over the accuracy and timeliness of their reporting to the telco authority. 

Indeed, the data from Australia’s second-largest telco, Optus, was excluded from the latest report due to “multiple amendments of its data submissions, and ongoing data anomalies”, according to the ACMA. 

“As a result, the ACMA has used its powers to require Optus to obtain an external audit of its compliance with the ACMA’s record-keeping rules,” the authority said in a statement. 

Data from Optus will be included in future reports when the ACMA is “confident of its accuracy”.

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