Figures released today by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) report show that complaints in the three months to end-March 2021 were down 6.1% on the same quarter last year, and also slightly lower than the previous quarter – building on a trend of improvement during the past 12 months.
The report also showed a significant quarterly drop of 38% in complaints from customers about difficulty in contacting their service provider.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said the drop in complaints was a welcome sign that telcos are consolidating the improved service levels they have rebuilt since the disruptive early period of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone knows it is frustrating when it is hard to contact service providers in any industry to get an issue dealt with – so the evident strong improvement in telcos being reachable and available to deliver good customer service is very welcome,” Stanton said.
So, what did the TIO have to say?
The TIO says phone and internet complaints remain steady, with seasonal comparisons showing decline.
Between January and March 2021, residential consumers and small businesses made 30,393 complaints about phone and internet services. This is a decrease of 0.3% compared to the previous quarter, and 6.1% compared to the same quarter last year.
The TIO's Quarter 3 (Q3) 2020-21 Complaints Report published today shows mobile continues to be the most complained about service type, accounting for 35% of all complaints. This is the highest proportion in the last five quarters.
Problems with inadequate fault testing has emerged as an issue for all consumer types. This is when a provider fails to troubleshoot a problem with a consumer, or the consumer is not satisfied with the provider’s fault testing.
A highlight for this period shows a continuation of a downward trend in the number of complaints about consumers being unable to contact their provider. This problem decreased by 38% compared to the previous quarter.
The overall proportion of small business complaints remains steady, with a slight decrease from 17% of total complaints in the previous quarter to 16% in Q3.
Other insights include the appearance of Foxtel in the top ten providers this quarter, replacing M2 Commander.
While overall complaint volumes have decreased over the last two quarters, complaints returning as unresolved from the telcos has been higher than previously observed. This quarter shows over 20% of referrals in Q2 returning as unresolved.
Commenting on the Q3 results, Ombudsman Judi Jones said, “Complaints reflect the consumer experience of their phone and internet services and interactions with their telco. While the decline in overall complaints is a positive sign, the increase in complaints coming back to us unresolved is concerning. We will continue monitoring this trend and working with the telcos on the problems as they emerge.”
Macquarie Telecom believes today’s latest TIO report shows telcos have failed to address systemic issues at a time when virtual communication is more important than ever; and that more issues remain unresolved shows the TIO’s intervention can’t stop consumers from being left stranded.
Luke Clifton, MacTel's Group Executive said: “The telco industry’s woeful reputation on customer service continues, with more than one complaint every five minutes, of every single day in the first quarter of the year. As lockdowns continue to plague millions of Australians and virtual communication becomes even more important for how we live, connect and work, telcos have simply not stepped up to fix long-overdue systemic issues.
“The fact that more and more complaints are reported unresolved is very concerning – it means that even when the TIO steps in, issues are not being resolved and consumers are left stranded.
“Reliance on telecoms will keep rising, and the industry needs to take a hard look at itself, increase local skills development and training so their teams are better equipped to deal with complaints in the first place, and improve their technology so they can address issues before they even affect consumers.”