Telco complaints finally tailing off

Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)


Customer fury over phone and internet services spawned almost 168,000 complaints to the industry’s independent watchdog last financial year.

And while that’s up six per cent, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones believes telcos are finally turning a corner and listening to the voices of angry consumers.

She says complaints to her office finally began to drop in the final six months of the 2017/18 financial year.

And while 168,000 was still far too many complaints, Ms Jones believes telcos have realised customer service is everything in a service-based industry.

“There is a chance the decline is just an aberration – but I’m hoping not,” she told AAP.

“Declining complaints across all landline, mobile and internet services are a positive indicator.”

The ombudsman’s latest report shows residential customers are most likely to reach out for help to resolve service and other disputes with their phone and internet companies.

Of the 167,831 complaints the office received, almost 88 per cent were residential users, the rest small businesses.

Problems with mobile phone services topped the list of gripes, accounting for a third of all complaints, with internet woes very close behind.

Unsurprisingly, market giant Telstra accounted for half of all complaints (82,528, up 7.7 per cent), and the Optus Group, including Virgin, one quarter.

But in good news smaller companies fighting to take market share off the big two have done a good job at slashing the number of unhappy customers contacting the ombudsman for help.

Frustrations related to the government’s problem plagued National Broadband Network, accounted for a quarter of all complaints (41,597).

Most (27,008) were about service quality on the network, the rest (14,589) about problems connecting to it.

But the ombudsman’s report said complaints relating to NBN did not necessarily mean the network itself was at fault.

The federal government said the data was good news, with NBN related complaints falling off while more users were connected.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said only one per cent of four million NBN users had lodged complaints, and that was despite the NBN doubling in size over the past year.

NBN Co chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said the results show the corporation and wider industry’s efforts to improve NBN customer experiences are starting to bear fruit.

The data comes as NBN Co’s latest monthly progress report for September found 94 per cent of equipment installations were done right the first time, compared with 86 per cent a year earlier.

“We acknowledge there is always more work to be done to drive better experiences for Australians as they transition from the old network to the new network,” Mr Whitcomb said.

“We remain committed to working with industry to do so.”


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