One in two report phone and internet issues in 2017

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God bless ombudsmen and women.

Hard on the heels of the Commonwealth Ombudsman lashing Australia Post for accruing 1.1 million complaints in the 2016–17 financial year, Australia’s telecommunications industry has been told to overhaul its consumer complaints systems.

Speaking on Monday on the findings of a survey of almost 3000 people across Australia, telecommunications industry ombudsman Judi Jones says one in two Australians have had phone and internet issues in the past year.

She said that as many as “10 million Australians are having issues with their phone or internet service”. And once complaints had been communicated, close to one-quarter had not been resolved four months later. That was “far, far too long to be without an essential service”, she told The Australian.

She added that her research indicated that only 12 per cent of people who had serious issues had contacted her office.

Ms Jones also reported that official complaints about National Broadband Network services had leapt 159 per cent in the last six months of 2017. Most related to speeds that telcos had promised but could not deliver.

Telstra has announced it will offer new customers a chance to get out of their broadband contracts early without penalty under its planned “NBN Satisfaction Guarantee”.

Ms Jones was appointed telecommunications industry ombudsman two years ago. She said that when she started the role “we were at the end of five years of declining complaints”. “Now, we’re living in a different time when complaints are rising consistently year on year across every category from billing and payments to customer service.”

She said complaints weren’t confined to one company and issues existed “across the board”.

She said telecommunications companies needed to learn to listen to disgruntled consumers.

“The industry needs to decide whether it invests in paying for my office to continue to handle the increasing numbers of complaints or it could invest that money in improving its own service delivery and improving internal complaints processes.”

Ms Jones advised anyone with a complaint to raise it with their provider immediately. If they couldn’t get satisfaction, they should call her office.

Sarah’s story
In delivering the findings of the survey in Sydney on Monday, Ms Jones described the following case study.

“I want to tell you Sarah’s story.

“Sarah lives in Strathfield – here in Sydney. After some time without a job, Sarah was excited to have found one.

“Now that she has certainty of income, she decides to transfer her mobile plan from prepaid to post-paid.

“Sarah goes online and fills in what she thinks is the right form. After submitting it, she thinks she might have done the wrong thing, so she calls her telco to check.

“After spending an hour listening to messages and hold music, Sarah talks to someone who tells her it was the right form, but she will need a new SIM card for the new service. They will send this to her, but it will take a couple of days to arrive.

“The package comes during the day (when she is at work) and with no one home, the courier sends the package back to the warehouse near the airport for collection.

“Sarah has to wait a while until she feels she can ask her new boss for some flexi-time and be able to leave work early to pick up the SIM. She finally collects the package – only to find the envelope is empty – no SIM card.

“Sarah calls her telco again and this time enjoys 106 minutes of wait time. The person she eventually speaks to apologises and tells her they will send another SIM card out.

“Sarah is now without a service as her prepaid plan has ended.

“In desperation, Sarah decides to go to the telco’s city shop in her lunchtime, only to be told that the switch should have been easily made online and that a new SIM was not even required.

“The helpful staff member says, ‘You should always come in – the call centre people have no idea what they are doing’.

“If it weren’t for the cancellation fee – Sarah, by now furious, would have cancelled her new service then and there.”

Have you had reason to call your telco with a problem? Did it take long to get through?

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Written by Janelle Ward


Total Comments: 30
  1. 0

    Only ever use prepaid mobile myself now after not being able to cancel a plan many years ago.

  2. 0

    I don’t have a “serious” complaint, but
    I was offered a reduced charge for my internet connection, and being a pensioner, I accepted.
    No-one mentioned that I was also going to get an increasingly unreliable service. Complaints go nowhere except someone’s ‘it is someone else’s problem’ box.
    That is called lying by omission.

    Other companies have offered reduced costs without lying about the choices I am making. Why can Telstra, yes, it was once our own business called the PMG dept., get away with this?

  3. 0

    I am still fighting with Telstra re a plan for a new phone. I went online to look at plans as mine was running out the chat line offered me a iphone 6S for $59 per mth with unlimited calls messages and 15Gb of data I was after a blue tick phone for the area we are in and an iphone for the medical apps my specialist uses. After selecting this phone got an order number they then proceeded to keep telling me the phone is unavailable but could get me one at a higher cost bla bla bla I have all this in print as I printed the chat line conversation. the upshot of all this still cant get the phone on the plan from them and they are still advertising it on the web site for $99 per mth. I have been through the ombudsman and not going through the trade practices act. NOT happy with Telstra at all. have been with them for about 50years. if we have service from another Telco we would be long gone. their call centre isn’t in Australia and they rope you in with deals they cant or wont supply.
    Good luck dealing with them

  4. 0

    I’d love to see more details about the “survey” that is quoted here. How many people were canvassed and what were the questions? Is the Ombudsman pumping up her own tyres with a misleading set of figures? In our case, I am very happy with the internet, landline and mobile services but I have had to contact the telcos on two occasions in the past year. There were a couple of minor issues not affecting the service but needed clarification on costings. Whilst I am a happy little camper, my situation would have shown up as a negative on the Ombudsman’s survey.

  5. 0

    I have been with Optus for about 16 rears & I have always been impressed with their attention & courtesy dealing with problems in an efficient manner.

    • 0

      I used to be with Optus and they have always been helpful and quick to respond, giving me credit when I have been unhappy. I only changed to Virgin for a cheaper deal and they are just as good.

    • 0

      I’ve had a lot of problems with Optus, but they’re brilliant compared with the abysmal Vodafone.

  6. 0

    Since March 2 this year I have been trying to update data access on my plan with a teleco. We finally settled on a plan after more than 12 hours on the phone and in their office. They sent me a copy of my plan which said I would receive a credit of just under $40 on mobile data charges on my next bill. The bill came this morning. It was for $75. That’s more than $100 over what they told me it would be.

  7. 0

    It would be good to know which Telcos have having the most complaints, I am with Virgin and never had a problem. Optus was good too, but I changed only for a better deal when they put the cost of my internet up.

  8. 0

    Half the problem is that when you contact the provider to speak to a rep you cannot understand half of what they say, they can only stick to the script and as a result there is no way that the issue can be resolved. The thing that surprises me is that this very poor service response is acceptable.

  9. 0

    I suspect that people are blaming the NBN for more recent problems, but I have been fighting with Telstra on and off for at least 7 years…….I have had to keep my landline as I get no mobile phone signal at the back of my house, where I sleep. If I have an emergency in the middle of the night I need to be able to contact Emergency Services. My internet service works well at times, but repeatedly cuts out at others. Or the speed is so slow. I have been told that’s because too many people are online at one time……WTF??? if we are forced to use the service, which we are, then it needs to be fit for the purpose. I resent paying full price for half a service, but each time I call it doesn’t get resolved. Have had three complaints in to the TIO over the years, things get better for a while, and then relapse. I have almost given up. I would switch telcos but not all are available in this area and no-one seems to be free of problems. Especially since connecting to NBN, but that’s another story…….have yet to do this, having been scared by all the horror stories I get from friends. Hope they sort it out before we have no choice…….

  10. 0

    Vodafone are TERRIBLE – and a rip-off. Avoid them like the plague!

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