Complaints about Australia's telecommunications had another massive jump in late 2017

Carl De Souza/ AFP/ Getty Images

Nearly 85,000 residential and small business customers complained about their landline, mobile and internet services to the independent umpire, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is the second half of 2017, a jump of almost 30% on the same period a year earlier.

Most of the complaints were focussed on charges and fees, with latest TIO report, released yesterday, revealing a surge in NBN complaints, which tripled in 12 months to make up more than a quarter of the total complaints.

But the good news for the national broadband network is that complaints were actually down 16% on the first six months of 2017.

Unless there is a dramatic slowdown in complaints in the first half of 2018, the figures mean FY18 is set to eclipse the record 150,000 complaints received in the FY17..

In response, NBN Co said that of the 22,827 complaints to the TIO about retail broadband services from the broadband service from July to December 2017, less than 5% (1052) were sent to NBN Co to resolve.

Of that total, around 14,000 involved service quality, with almost 9,000 about connection delays.

NBN Co chief customer officer, Brad Whitcomb, said the total number of complaints to the TIO about the service equated to 0.67% of total connections, with the number of activated premises on the network over that six month period up 39% to 942,804 premises.

“While the slowdown in the rate of complaints is encouraging, NBN Co acknowledges there is still more work to be done, particularly at this critical stage of the rollout as we balance prioritising customer experience without taking our foot off the construction pedal,” he said.

The complaints coincided with a series of red cards for the major NBN retail service providers, including Telstra, Optus and TPG, over misleading customers on promised speeds.

Consumer watchdog the ACCC forced eight different internet providers to compensate more than 76,000 customers charged extra for speeds they could not get.

Of the 84,914 complaints received by the TIO between July and December 2017, 74,729 came from residential users, with the remainder, 9,947, from small business.

Charges and fees made up nearly half (38,594) of the complaints followed by provider response (36,563) – the TIO is meant to be the last port of call for consumers unhappy with the response from their telco – then poor service quality (18,936), connection/changing provider (13,844) and no service (12,831).

Unsurprisingly, NSW topped the complaints list at 27,000, followed by Victoria with 24,000.

The number of complaints regarding telecommunications services increased in every Australian state and territory, most significantly in Queensland and Western Australian.

New South Wales topped the list with nearly 26,914 complaints, up nearly 30% on the same period in 2016, followed by Victoria with 23,954, and a similar increase.

The most dramatic rises came in Queensland, up nearly 40% to 16,418 complaints, and Western Australia, up 36.5% to 7,381, compared to the second half of 2016.

Mobile phone services provoked the most complaints and as the sector continues to change, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones said her organisation changed the way it records issues now categorising them into six broad categories.

“The changes mean our data will more accurately reflect the description of complaints given by residential consumers and small businesses,” she said.

“The changes also make it easier to see the issues facing the telecommunications industry, helping providers improve the delivery of phone and internet services.”

Jones said expectation from consumers about the quality of phone and internet services are high.

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