TIO Annual Report sees telco complaints spike in 2017

18 October 2017

TIO Annual Report 2016/2017

Having dramas with your mobile, landline or broadband plan or provider? You're not alone. According to the newly-published annual report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, more than 158,000 Australians have escalated disputes with their telco during the 2016 to 2017 financial year.

And despite efforts from the major providers to improve coverage and keep prices competitive, consumer dissatisfaction appears to be increasing: the TIO has recorded a 41.1% rise in complaints from residential customers and small businesses in the last twelve months. 

More connections = more complaints

The most notable change? Broadband services have now replaced mobile as the number-one source of customer complaints, with incidences increasing by a hefty 64.8% in the last year. More than 63,800 Australians made official complaints about their internet service, citing issues such as overall customer service, billing, contracts, and connection faults. 

Considering that consumers and businesses are now demanding more from their internet than ever before (such as HD streaming, video calling, and downloading), a spike in user frustration isn't surprising. But the 2016/2017 report marks the first time that broadband has outranked mobile as the reason behind consumer complaints.

NBN-specific grievances also grew throughout the year, with connection delays and service faults being the main causes of concern for customers. The TIO recorded 11,224 complaints about delayed NBN connections (or about 8.3 complaints for every 1,000 premises activated), and 16,221 complaints regarding faults in services.

In terms of phone connections, there were 52,300 complaints recorded concerning mobile services (an increase of 27.5%), and 41,824 landline complaints (a jump of 30.1%). While it's surprising that complaints about landlines would increase - considering more and more Australians are ditching home phones - perhaps the current focus on mobile has led telcos to fall short in catering to existing landline customers.

How does your telco rate?

More than 90% of TIO-logged complaints concerned the top 10 phone and internet providers in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the three most complained-about companies are also the three biggest: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone again took out the top three positions, with Telstra accounting for a massive 76,650 complaints (compared to Optus' 28,766).

The top ten most-complained-about telcos from 2016-2017 are as follows:

Number of complaints
Percentage increase/decrease
Telstra76,65043.5% increase
Optus28,76631.2% increase
Vodafone10,68437.5% increase
iiNet10,17079% increase
TPG6,99544.9% increase
Dodo3,3091.1% increase
Southern Phone2,068266.7% increase
Primus1,91732.1% increase
M2 Commander1,70425.3% increase
Virgin Mobile1,35411.6% decrease

Interestingly, while nine of the above ten companies have experienced an increase in complaints throughout the financial year, Virgin Mobile alone has seen an impressive 11.6% drop in unhappy customers. While we can't say for certain what's behind the telco's success, Virgin Mobile's excellent plan value is a likely contributor.

In contrast, regionally-focused provider Southern Phone has seen a significant rise in complaints in the last twelve months. Although 2,068 recorded complaints doesn't seem excessive when compared with bigger companies, it does translate to a year on year increase of 266.7%.

Southern Phone has previously been commended by organisations such as ACOMM and Ray Morgan for outstanding customer service, so here's hoping this year's result is merely a temporarily blip, best attributed to the growing pains of being a small company with an expanding customer base.

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