Telco complaints increase again

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has released new statistics which show that the number of complaints rose in the quarter from January 1 to March 31 by 8.6% against the previous December quarter.

The TIO recorded a total of 52,231 complaints in the first quarter of 2012. Although up on the December quarter, complaints were down 12.3% against the first quarter of 2011. This decrease, however, was not felt across all services.

Of the 52,231 complaints received 10,386 were to do with fixed line services, an increase of 20.9% from the December quarter, however this number was a fall of 20% against the first quarter of 2011. There were also 8,663 complaints regarding internet services which was an increase of 29% against the December quarter, however this number also represented a fall against the first quarter of 2011, this time by 14.7%.

The TIO reported a smaller rise from the previous quarter in the number of complaints regarding mobile services, however they noted two issues of major concern: financial overcommitment caused by inadequate spend management tools, and disputed internet charges.

Complaints caused by inadequate spending controls totalled 4,282 in the first quarter of 2012, an enormous 96.3% increase on the first quarter of 2011. There were 2,823 complaints regarding disputed internet charges representing an even larger increase of 187.8% on the first quarter of 2011.

The TIO noted that ‘There is an indisputable connection between unexpectedly high telephone bills and consumers who cannot afford to pay for their services’, but that they believed ‘that the high incidence of these complaints would reduce if providers ensured consumers could reasonably afford their contracted services’.

The TIO also said that consumers can be protected from high costs ‘ through the use of tools such as usage notifications, accurate usage meters, and/or limiting access to services where unusually high charges are accruing’.

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