Poor mobile coverage most prominent issue for telco services
Complaints about phone and internet services decreased 33.4% in the last financial year ending 30 June 2022, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's Annual Report 2021-22.
During this period, residential consumers and small businesses made 79,534 complaints.
Problems about connection delays, failing to cancel a service, and billing issues have improved compared to last year with the number of complaints dropping by over 40%. Complaints about a telco being uncontactable have decreased considerably, and this is no longer a major issue for residential consumers and small businesses.
While overall complaint numbers declined significantly in the period, the proportion of mobile complaints increased to 39.7% of all complaints, from 32.7% in the previous year. This is the highest proportion of complaints about mobile services in over five years.
Mobile complaints about poor coverage have increased 6.3%, and problems with partially restricted mobile services and mobile service drop outs have increased 12.4% and 9.9% respectively.
The TIO received 26,989 complaints about internet services, a decrease of 32.3% compared to the previous year. Complaints about landline services and multiple services declined by over 45%. There were 6,814 complaints about landline services in 2021-22.
The number of complaints about phone and internet services from small businesses decreased 44.2%. Mobile complaints that had a fault or connection issue increased by 2.4%. Fault and connection complaints decreased for all other service types. Problems with poor mobile coverage appeared in the top ten issues in all states and territories except for the Australian Capital Territory.
Some providers saw significant improvements in complaint numbers in 2021-22. The number of complaints about Telstra decreased 43.7% this year, and complaints about Southern Phone dropped 47%. Complaints increased for Aussie Broadband, Dodo and Medion.
The number of escalated complaints decreased in this period by 36.8% compared to last year, with most unresolved complaints remaining about customer service, billing problems and service drop-outs. Escalated complaints about problems with poor mobile coverage decreased at a much lower rate than other issues, at just 5.7% while most other issues decreased by over 30%.
"It's really pleasing to see the significant decrease in complaints this year," says Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert. "Telcos have done well to work with consumers in resolving most problems before they come to us.
"Our data shows that in last financial year, as the pandemic cooled down, fewer premises were connected to the NBN network, and industry improvements were made, internet complaints decreased significantly," she says.
"But we didn't see the same improvements in mobile services, and the number of people who complained to us about poor mobile coverage increased.
"Mobile services are essential for things like banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, and connecting socially, and consumers tell us their lives are disrupted when they experience problems with their mobile service," says Gebert.
"While we have seen some great improvements, Australia's telcos need to do more to resolve complaints about mobile services, including poor mobile coverage, before consumers come to my office for help."