TIO Annual Report Finds Mobile Problems, Optus Data Breach are Top Issues for Consumers

A list of three key takeaways from the 2023 TIO Annual Report
Consumers and small businesses made 66,388 complaints about phone and internet services, a decrease of 16.5%. Problems with mobile services accounted for 48% of complaints, the highest proportion in six years. 1,634 complaints were about financial hardship, an increase of 1.2%.

Original media release from the TIO (11/10/2023).

Complaints from phone and internet consumers decreased 16.5 per cent in the last financial year ending 30 June 2023. In this period, consumers and small business made 66,388 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, highlighted in the Annual Report 2022—23 published today.

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Complaints about mobile phone services remained steady against the trend of overall decline. The proportion of complaints about mobile services accounted for 48 per cent of complaints, the highest proportion of complaints in six years. The issues behind the complaint numbers about mobile services were partly related to the Optus data breach in September 2022.     

For all service types, increases in complaints were recorded against poor customer service, failure to cancel a service, inadequate fault testing, and non-financial loss (time lost, inconvenience, stress). Positively, all other problems in the top 10 complaint issues decreased during the period.  

Complaints relating to financial hardship increased 1.2 per cent to 1,634. The majority of these complaints were experienced by residential consumers who had problems with their mobile service. Victorians accounted for the highest number of complaints (541) for financial hardship, up 7 per cent on the previous year. While low in volume, Western Australia had a 12 per cent increase in complaints about financial hardship. 

The Local Government Area (LGA) with the highest number of complaints was Brisbane (2,477). This was followed by the Gold Coast (1,404), Moreton Bay (1,108), Sunshine Coast (875) and Canterbury-Bankstown (835). 

The TIO received 8,305 complaints from small businesses, a decrease of almost 25 per cent on the previous year and the lowest volume of small business complaints in the last three years. This is the first year that mobile services have been the dominant service type for small business complaints, accounting for a proportion of 33.5 per cent.  

Complaints about Optus increased 29.5 per cent in the previous financial year, with increases also reported against Vodafone and Southern Phone. Telstra experienced the biggest decline during the period, recording a drop of almost 36 per cent.  

Quote attributable to Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert: 

“It’s pleasing that complaints are declining alongside industry improvements for phone and internet consumers. Despite this trend, complaints about financial hardship are increasing as the cost-of-living crisis puts pressure on Australian households. The complaints data shows that over the past year, Victorians and Western Australians had a tough time paying for their phone and internet services. 

“Telcos need to make sure they are offering flexible payment methods and specialised help and support for people who are struggling to pay. 

“Most of our complaints about financial hardship relate to mobile services, which now make up nearly half of our overall complaints. 

“Phone and internet services are essential for banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, as well as staying in touch with family and friends. It’s critical that people have access to these services, and consumers can easily get help when things go wrong.” 

Complaints by state and top five LGAs 

New South Wales 

20,486 total complaints (23 per cent decrease) 

  1. Canterbury-Bankstown — 835 complaints 
  2. Central Coast – 825 complaints 
  3. Blacktown – 811 complaints 
  4. Sydney – 576 complaints 
  5. Penrith – 533 complaints 


19,325 total complaints (16.1 per cent decrease) 

  1. Wyndham — 788 complaints 
  2. Casey — 783 complaints 
  3. Whittlesea — 687 complaints 
  4. Hume — 663 complaints 
  5. Melton — 575 complaints 


12,914 total complaints (14.9 per cent decrease) 

  1. Brisbane – 2,477 complaints 
  2. Gold Coast – 1,404 complaints 
  3. Moreton Bay – 1,108 complaints 
  4. Sunshine coast – 875 complaints 
  5. Logan — 736 complaints 

Western Australia 

5,644 total complaints (5.3 per cent decrease) 

  1. Stirling – 436 complaints 
  2. Wanneroo — 410 complaints 
  3. Swan – 357 complaints 
  4. Rockingham – 271 complaints 
  5. Joondalup — 259 complaints

South Australia

5,399 total complaints (6.3 per cent decrease)

  1. Onkaparinga – 450
  2. Port Adelaide Enfield – 399
  3. Salisbury – 379
  4. Charles Sturt – 340
  5. Playford – 320


1,151 total complaints (11.5 per cent decrease) 

  1. Clarence – 108 complaints 
  2. Glenorchy – 95 complaints 
  3. Hobart — 87 complaints 
  4. Launceston — 72 complaints 
  5. Kingborough — 67 complaints 

Northern Territory 

387 total complaints (20.5 per cent decrease) 

  1. Darwin — 102 
  2. Palmerston — 52 
  3. Litchfield — 40 
  4. Alice — 18 
  5. Katherine — 10 

Australian Capital Territory 

1,020 total complaints (4.9 per cent decrease) 

See more data on the TIO’s interactive data dashboard