Rise in consumer issues with phone, Internet services, telcos too slow to react

Millions of Australians have experienced problems with their phone or Internet services over the last 12 months, prompting the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to attack telcos and service providers for taking far too long to resolve the problems that consumers face.
The latest report on the telecommunications sector by the ombudsman, Judi Jones, reveals that nearly 10 million Australians have experienced a problem with their phone or Internet service, and in many cases around 1 in 4 issues were still not resolved after four months.

“That is too long a time to be without a service,” says Jones, noting that 20% of residential consumers had more than one phone or Internet issue over the last year.

And, for small businesses the picture is more problematic, with almost 60% identifying a phone or Internet issue affecting their business.

The TIO surveyed almost 3000 people — a broad mix of income types, including residents and small businesses people — from across Australia and concluded that the telecommunications industry needs to do more to address the thousands of consumer complaints.
“Today’s results show us that everyone with responsibility for planning and delivering telecommunications service has to make things better. Phone and the Internet services are essential services, making a vital difference to families, within communities and to business,” said Jones.

“We all have to be proactive and accessible in managing the issues. We have to listen to residential consumers and small.

“I believe the telecommunications industry needs to take a closer look at what complaint data and our research is telling us.

“By focusing on complaints, phone and Internet providers will be in a much better position to understand the needs of their consumers.

“Which can only be a good thing for companies providing such essential services to a diverse community like Australia,” Jones said.

The TIO found that 1 in 2 Australians have had phone or Internet issues in the past year – potentially 10 million Australians who are having issues.

In addition, 1 in 5 had more than one issue and around 1 in 4 issues were still not resolved after four months.

The TIO says for small businesses “things are also quite discouraging”.

Almost 60% of small businesses had had an issue in the past year, and almost 25% had had more than one issue.

And residential consumers and small businesses both rated the vast majority of issues as “serious” or “very serious”.

The TIO research revealed that for both residential consumers and small businesses, the majority of issues relate to service delivery and in particular the “quality or the absence of a service”.

The report notes that problems with Internet services for residential consumers and small businesses also ranked highly and are across all networks – both on both legacy networks and the national broadband network.

But, Jones says that when people had a complaint they were not clear about how to complain.

She says the research results are consistent with the TIO’s experience.

“We will release our six-month update next week, and while I am not revealing the full results now, I can tell you the report is showing complaints continue to rise.

“Our research also tells us that only 12% of people who had a serious issue contacted the TIO.

“Which means that their complaints could have been quickly resolved – but remember 25% of issues were not resolved after four months.

“Would you wait for four months for a service?” comments Jones.

“There is clearly more work us and for industry to do.”

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