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What A Shock-er! 194,000 Telco Complaints ’11-12

The astonishing number of complaints against Telstra, Vodafone and Co 2011-12, marked just a 2% drop on the previous year

Aussie phones users made 193,702 new telco complaints according to the 2012 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) annual report, published today.

So, what were the bug bears against our beloved telcos?

Mobiles mostly – complaints about mobile phones soared almost 10% to almost 123,000, reflecting the mass usage (over 50% penetration) of Internet hungry smartphones like iPhones and Androids in OZ.

Complaints made about the big three telcos – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone- were the highest, although Telstra enjoyed over 20% fall in number of complaints, while rival Optus saw their number of complaints rise a whopping 47%, while troubled Voda was up 11%.

Poor coverage, bill shock and billing disputes and the quality of information given at the point of sale were common complaints, the report showed.

Almost 16,000 mobile users had issues with bill accuracy and charges, after spending far above their allowance (double the number of the previous year); 14,000 disputes over the total amount of a bill and almost 10,000 had disputed Internet charges – a 150% rise – were all recorded by the Ombudsman.

Disputes over roaming charges also rose a massive 69%. Consumers being credit default listed while their bill was in dispute also soared in the past year, which the Ombudsman said he was “very concerned” about.

Almost half of all Aussie users (or around 7 million) suffered a bill shockers last year, a separate report recently showed.

But since April, the TIO’s complaints forum has quietened down, says Ombudsman Simon Cohen, due to telcos being forced to pull up their (highly profitable) socks.

“There has been a clear trend, of reduced complaints, with the last quarter of 2011-12 being our quietest for almost two years,” says Cohan, which he says is a “positive sign” that reflects a number of telcos on improving their customer service.

Under the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code, telcos are now required to and give notification alerts for data, voice calls and SMS usage no later than 48 hours after the user has reached cap thresholds of 50, 85 and 100 per cent.

“Complaints about unexpectedly high bills and unnecessary financial overcommitment point to the urgent need for strong spend management rules, including those that are included in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code,” Cohen said.

“While these rules do not apply until 2013, or in certain cases 2014, it is a positive sign that some service providers have already taken steps to introduce better consumer notifications about high usage.”

Cohen also issued a stern warning to telcos about the growing number of customers being placed in credit default lists:

“Credit listings can have very significant impacts on people – affecting applications for credit, including for housing and personal loans. Any credit default listing should only occur after the correct procedures have been followed.”