One in two report phone and internet issues in 2017

Study uncovers widespread phone and internet issues in 2017.

One in two report telco issues

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Old Geezer
    10th Apr 2018
    Only ever use prepaid mobile myself now after not being able to cancel a plan many years ago.
    10th Apr 2018
    Me too.
    10th Apr 2018
    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?
    Old Geezer
    10th Apr 2018
    Unfortunately you get what yo pay for with telcos now.
    the old bag
    10th Apr 2018
    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
    10th Apr 2018
    Times have changed and so has Telstra. Try another Telco. Look up reviews online.
    Old Geezer
    10th Apr 2018
    There is a way you can get on to an Australian to help you with Telstra. You ring Telstra and just say disconnect and you are likely to be transferred to an Australian. I had to do this when I had problems with the overseas call centre connecting me up to the NBN. Issue was resolved very quickly and I was given a credit on my account.
    10th Apr 2018
    When I ring Telstra I always ask for complaints.
    Old Geezer
    10th Apr 2018
    Tried that and it doesn't work.

    10th Apr 2018
    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.
    10th Apr 2018
    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.
    10th Apr 2018
    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.
    10th Apr 2018
    I've had a lot of problems with Optus, but they're brilliant compared with the abysmal Vodafone.
    10th Apr 2018
    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.
    10th Apr 2018
    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.
    Ted Wards
    10th Apr 2018
    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.
    10th Apr 2018
    A good tactic is to ask to speak to a supervisor. Some of them have a few more brain-cells.
    10th Apr 2018
    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.......

    10th Apr 2018
    Vodafone are TERRIBLE - and a rip-off. Avoid them like the plague!

    10th Apr 2018
    One of the problems with the telcos is the time-lag in them updating your data usage on their Usage Summary webpage in regard to one's computer internet data consumption. The Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code, which the telcos go by, allows up to 48 hours! That is ridiculous!!! A great deal of data can be consumed over 48 hours, data over-runs, can occur, and you can accrue huge bills while being none the wiser. This needs to be tightened up, in light of the current lightning-fast computer technology. Personally, I'd like to see a Royal Commission into the whole sector - one that forces them to get their act together.
    10th Apr 2018
    I find using the Telco's app more accurate.
    10th Apr 2018
    I don't use my phone for anything but talking. So no "apps" (how I hate that ridiculous word!) for me!
    10th Apr 2018
    I know how you feel Knows-a-lot, I have only had a smartphone for a short time (still learning) and I only got the Virgin app because my son showed me how easier and more accurate it was, I have a bird watching app to record birds I see too which is great, but I am still getting used to them, I also hated the word "app". I won't pay for any and don't go looking for them either. I will also not use my phone for shopping, paying bills or banking, still rather use the laptop I can see it better.

    10th Apr 2018
    PS: The Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman [TIO] is bloody useless. They're a toothless tiger funded by the telcos when complaints are made to them. This puts them into an unholy co-dependent relationship with the telcos: if the complaints don't keep rolling in, the TIO goes belly-up. So it's in their own self-interest NOT to resolve complaints.
    10th Apr 2018
    I had the NBN connected with Telstra, and had a problem with my home phone not working.I Went to their NBN trouble shooting site, and with it's help fixed my problem myself. So if your having problems, don't wait for Telstra to fix it, go to their problem website.
    Old Geezer
    10th Apr 2018
    That only works if your phone is on the NBN what if you still have your old copper line phone with your NBN? Many people in bushfires areas still have their copper phone lines.
    13th Apr 2018
    OG people living in isolated bushfire prone areas should be immediately planning for a situation without communications.

    That is where we have ended up.

    Once the electricity goes down the mobile towers go shortly after.

    Communities will need a plan of who does what, where the vulnerable people are and who is to check on them etc.

    A radio with battery is a vital item to have in the emergency kit.

    We were without power or phone coverage for 8 days in the last big storm.
    10th Apr 2018
    I read of the problems people have with Telco's - we have been with Telstra for over 42 years, we have had some problems, however, after discussions with the call centre and putting my problem to them - politely - and explaining my problem, we have ALWAYS resolved the problem, so we have never changed.
    10th Apr 2018
    I have had numerous problems with telcos. I once lived in Ultimo and one day received my bill with $420 added for payment of a commander system. I lived in a one bedroom unit. I received notice that I would be disconnected if I did not pay. I spoke to Telstra who advised that I should speak to the Commander suppliers, a company that I have never deal with. I declined. Eventually I convinced Telstra that I did not have a commander system and they agreed it was an error. Next bill, no sign of the extra charge, relief ! 3 months later, the bill arrived and the charge was back. Now driven by despair and after spending many hours on the phone Telsra admitted the error occurred because the tel number I had been allocated once belonged to the ABC the original owner of the commander system. Apology ? Nah.
    11th Apr 2018
    We are still trying to get Telstra to fix its dawdling pace. Now we've just found out our modem is the oldest, but at least they've given us another one. Telstra Now on the TV is not now, except every now and then, sigh. I sure do miss the cable I had in Canada; it was at least the speed of a rocket ship, lol. Hopefully, Telstra and the others will get it together; the government should have done cable like they promised.

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