Thursday, 21 November 2019 11:39

NZ telecom retail service providers attract highest number of consumer complaints Featured

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New Zealand telecommunications retail service providers generated the highest number of complaints under the Fair Trading Act to the country’s competition regulator, The Commerce Commission.

The Commission reports that it received 727 consumer complaints about their telecommunications retail service providers in the 2018/19 year - up from the 2017/18 figure of 584.

Complaint themes included consumers saying they were charged fees they were not told about, their bills are often inaccurate, or they were signed up to contracts they did not agree to.

Overall, across various business and industry sectors, consumer complaints to the Commerce Commission increased more than 20% in the 2018/19 year, to nearly 9,000.

The Commission also reported that there were 585 complaints about online ticket selling, up nearly 63% from 359 during 2016/17, with complaint themes including that headline prices did not match the final price, and that consumers felt pressured by countdown clocks or messages presented to them during the purchase process such as “limited seats”.

“The increase in complaints about online ticket reselling is led by the unprecedented number of complaints about Swiss company Viagogo. We are taking High Court proceedings against Viagogo and can’t comment further on that while the matter is before the Courts,” said Commission chair Anna Rawlings.

And domestic appliance retailers were the subject of 469 complaints, up 78, with complaint themes including that consumers were told the Consumer Guarantees Act did not apply when they attempted to return a faulty product - or that they would have to pay for a repair because the manufacturer’s warranty had expired.

Complaints about irresponsible lending increased nearly 40% to 116, with complainants alleging that lenders did not check if repayment was affordable, and that borrowers were offered more credit even though they were struggling to pay current debts.

Debt collection practices generated 124 complaints, with complaint themes including that consumers felt unfairly pursued or harassed by debt collectors to pay their debts.

“This is the first time we have released complaint information in this way, and we’ve done so for two main reasons: we want to make this information more accessible and meaningful to consumers, and we also want to show that every complaint we receive is important to us, even though we can not investigate all of them,” said Commission Chair Anna Rawlings.

“The increase in complaints relates almost entirely to matters covered by the Fair Trading Act 1986. They went up by more than 1,500.

“In our snapshot we illustrate through speech bubbles the main themes of the complaints we have received. While these are not real quotes from consumers, they are indicative of the concerns that many consumers have raised with us.

“It’s important to note that a complaint does not necessarily mean the law has been broken and larger industries are likely to generate more complaints because they have many more customers,” Rawlings concluded.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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