Internet, mobile phone complaints go through the roof

Telecommunications complaints increased by 41.1 per cent in the last financial year.

Internet, mobile phone complaints go through the roof

Complaints about landline phones, mobile phones and internet services increased by 41.1 per cent in the past financial year.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s (TIO) 2016/17 Annual Report published today also showed that complaints about internet services are now higher than complaints about mobile phones, the first time they have been the highest source of complaints.

This was largely due to the rollout of the national broadband network (NBN), which saw complaints more than double over the previous financial year.

Delays to connections were the main cause for NBN complaints, followed by internet and landline faults for services delivered over the network.

TIO Ombudsman Judi Jones said the issues surrounding the NBN rollout were “a cause for concern”.

“The national broadband network project is complex, and it is important all parties involved work together to ensure a great consumer experience,” Ms Jones said.

Ms Jones also said the report shows that Australian consumers still have too many complaints about their customer service, billing or faults.

“The picture the complaints show is we are frustrated when we cannot rely on technology to stay connected, to be informed, and to do business,” Ms Jones said.

The total number of complaints received by the TIO in the past financial year was 158,016, the highest level of complaints since 2012/13.

Customer service, billing and payments, faults and complaint handling were the most common complaints about phone and internet services.

Complaints recorded about internet services increased by 64.8 per cent over the previous year, compared with more moderate increases in complaints for landline phones (30.1 per cent) and mobile phones (27.5 per cent).

In 2016/17, South Australia recorded the highest growth in complaints, an increase of 51 per cent, followed by Western Australia with 49.1 per cent. The Northern Territory recorded the smallest increase in complaints (29.7 per cent).

Of the top 10 phone and internet service providers, Virgin Mobile was the only carrier to record a decrease in the number of complaints (11.6 per cent).

Opinion: NBN failures show Ombudsman needs more power

The sky-rocketing level of complaints to the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO) highlight the massive failings of the current NBN rollout.

I made a complaint to the TIO last month concerning the inability of the NBN Co or my service provider to properly connect me to the network and have yet to have the issue resolved.

Constant reports about problems with connections and speeds once the service is installed, suggest that I am not alone.

The TIO has been recording and reporting complaints about services delivered over the NBN since 2013/14. Complaints about landline phones and internet services delivered over the network have grown consistently since that time.

The most recent figures show 27,195 complaints were recorded about services delivered over the NBN, a year-on-year increase of 159.3 per cent.

Earlier this month, we reported on the parliamentary committee calling for an overhaul of how the NBN is policed, and these latest figures support the call for change.

It recommended new regulations be introduced, so NBN Co would be bound to "service connection and fault repair timeframes" achieve "minimum network performance and reliability" and provide "compensation" for customers when such benchmarks are not met.

This is a good starting point, but the TIO should also be able to compel NBN Co to resolve internet problems when it is responsible for the outage.

What do you think? Have you had cause to register a complaint with the TIO? Were you happy with the resolution? Do you think the Ombudsman should have greater powers?

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    COMMENTS

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    18th Oct 2017
    11:43am
    Some of the stories I have heard are disgraceful with the main complaint being that users have had no phone or internet service for weeks and, on the odd occasion, months. The fault with all of these complaints lies squarely with the retail providers, not the NBN which is a wholesale provider.

    As has been pointed out before in this forum, NBN Co sets up the broadband/phone hookups and sells to a retail provider which, in turn, sells to the end user. It is the retail provider which is making the promises on speed and connectivity. What has happened in the past is that retailers have sold a product which is not yet available in the area, advised the current retail provider which then cuts off the existing service to the user. The new service cannot be connected because the NBN has not reached that area and the result is; no service.

    We read that the NBN is now rolling out more available connections in one week than the original rollout could achieve in one year. It naturally follows that the more connections that are made available then the number of complaints must also rise. I wonder what the percentage of complaints is rather than a solitary figure of the number of complaints.
    inextratime
    18th Oct 2017
    12:33pm
    Moved house on the 22 September. Still waiting for internet to be connected and we are in a suburb only 20ks from the CBD. Uncertain if it will be ASDL2, Cable or NBN. Waiting for further news from Telstra but after 14 phone calls not optimistic.
    Malt
    18th Oct 2017
    12:46pm
    Yes I totally agree we have had NBN at our home for a while now and it's that slow or freezes often it's useless the old system went better with out these issues.
    They had to replace 1 modem already and I asked how is it our home phone which was in the kitchen now has to be in the study at back of house answer was that's the way it is and it would cost use to run a new line to where phone use to be?
    Why should we pay for something like this when we already had it with Telstra.
    NBN is useless.
    Sceptic
    18th Oct 2017
    2:36pm
    Before declaring NBN as useless, learn a little more about it. You can have our phone in any room. All you have to do is get a cable installer to run the cat 6 cables to where ever you want it. I have three phone outlets, plus a direct internet connection in every room, and it was not expensive to be installed.
    Malt
    18th Oct 2017
    2:47pm
    That's fine to have all you have in your home but when you already had it set up prior why should we be paying to get back what we had?
    Our NBN also drops out regularly and you don't realise you have no phone till someone rings your mobile to say check your home phone as they had been trying to get in touch.
    This morning I was trying to do something important and once again system just stopped for about 3mins just love this system not!
    MICK
    18th Oct 2017
    12:57pm
    Maybe mention that the TIO is a business not a government regulator. That way you understand why the TIO does not intervene in anything other than minor bill issues. I speak from experience. It was a bitter time and Optus refused to pay mandatory compensation for what it had done....with the TIO in tow. So much for legislation!
    AUSTRALIA NEEDS A GENUINE REGULATOR. The TIO is a player.
    Anonymous
    18th Oct 2017
    3:29pm
    Assuming you are correct MICK, I fear that the use of the word ombudsman is being used in a misleading manner. The definition of ombudsman is;

    "The Ombudsman is an independent officer of Parliament with responsibility to investigate the actions of public authorities including State Government departments, prisons, hospitals, schools and technical colleges, local governments and public universities."

    Maybe a correct definition for TIO is that they have a Complaints Officer or, if he/she feels that they are so important, a Senior Complaints Officer. You have raised an interesting point.
    MICK
    18th Oct 2017
    7:58pm
    That is my complaint Old Man. Consumers are deceived by the media into believing we have an ombudsman. We don't. What we have is a BUSINESS which acts in the interests of Telstra and Optus. They never tell consumers that. I wonder why.

    18th Oct 2017
    3:18pm
    The TIO is the lapdog of the telcos, because they fund it. And yet they claim to be "independent"! What is needed is government regulation. Indeed, I'd push for a Royal Commission into this industry sector.

    The main problem I have is with Usage Summary webpages not showing accurate usage, so it's easy to encounter a data over-run and be slugged with exorbitant fees. Telcos are financially gouging bastards.
    Annick
    18th Oct 2017
    4:17pm
    The main problem with the NBN is that the Government dumbed it down from a Fibre Optic service to piggy backing it on the original Telstra copper lines, many of which are old a deteriorating. I can get NBN where I live but it is FTTN which means all the units in the block share the same line. I would like FTTP or even FTTB. People who live in areas that got the NBN after it was dumbed down are disadvantaged. My broadband/WiFi is terrible lots of drop outs and stalls. Have been advised that until all units in the block connect to NBN this will keep on happening.
    AutumnOz
    18th Oct 2017
    4:46pm
    We are in a rural area and from what I have heard from friends on the outskirts of various cities, and as far as I can tell from some of their experiences, the NBN was designed for cities, rather than outer suburbs and only the inner city areas seem to have reasonably service, also the NBN will be useless for us even if it does reach us.
    We have little mobile phone coverage in our area and that only occasionally.
    For us personally the change over to the NBN will possibly be a disaster especially if I have another major asthma attack and the phone drops out, there is no way I could walk to a neighbour's house or to the main road to flag down a vehicle to get help for me.
    The NBN is just another very highly priced disaster for Australia and Australians, in its current form it is only suitable for fully built up areas and is a major problem once out of the environs of a large city.
    It is a pity the government workers who designed this system didn't check the maps and discover there is more to this country than a narrow belt of land around the coastline.
    It makes me very angry to think of all the people who may, probably will, die because of a system that denies them a decent reliable phone service and what we can expect to replace it is completely dependent on having a computer running 24/7.
    Many people do not have a computer or internet access and their phone link to the outside world will be cut off once the NBN arrives in their area. That is very dangerous and will almost certainly cost lives.
    It is totally irresponsible for any government to deny their constituents access to basic care when it is needed.
    LiveItUp
    19th Oct 2017
    7:41am
    I disagree with that and can't understand how people can give an opinion when they haven't tried something.

    I have had NBN installed on my vountry estate for over 2 years now and it is far superior than my old ADSL and phone. I still have the old phone that rarely works so just use the jnternet onstead to make calls. With decent mobile phones designed for rural areas I also enjoy good mobile coverage.
    Rae
    19th Oct 2017
    9:06am
    I wonder if there is a plan for power outages yet? Last big storm here took the grid and the mobile network down from a week to two weeks in some areas. We still had the copper network though so phones worked. That is no longer the case.

    I haven't heard of any security plans for a major event. Guess we'll be on our own like those Caribbean residents are right now.

    Maybe communities need to sort out a plan perhaps using short wave. The local rural fire department or SES would be the obvious choice for designing a plan. Figure out how communication in fire events, storm events etc will work without electricity, phones or computer networks.

    People must have had plans before technology and need them again for when it fails.

    Strangely enough mobile coverage is fine in some very isolated parts of the world but not so here. I've had better coverage in Petra than outside Mudgee.
    Rae
    19th Oct 2017
    9:08am
    Why doesn't Telstra have a computer data plan that does not include a landline? Seems very odd. I don't need or use a landline but have one connected to their lowest home bundle.