Poor mobile coverage most prominent issue for telco services

According to the Telecom Industry Ombudsman’s 2021-22 annual report, complaints about telephone and internet services decreased by 33.4% in the last fiscal year ended June 30, 2022.

During that period, consumers and small businesses filed 79,534 complaints.

Problems with connection delays, non-cancellation of a service, and billing issues have improved compared to last year, with the number of complaints falling by over 40%. Complaints about a telco being unavailable have decreased significantly and this is no longer a big problem for consumers and small businesses.

While the total number of complaints fell significantly during the reporting period, the proportion of mobile complaints increased from 32.7% in the previous year to 39.7% of all complaints. This is the highest rate of complaints about mobile service in over five years.

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Mobile complaints about poor coverage increased by 6.3%, and problems with partially limited cellular service and cellular service outages increased by 12.4% and 9.9%, respectively.

The TIO received 26,989 complaints about internet services, down 32.3% year-on-year. Complaints about landline and multiple services dropped by over 45%. In 2021-22 there were 6,814 complaints about landline services.

The number of complaints about telephone and internet services from small businesses fell by 44.2%. Cell phone complaints that had a glitch or connection problem increased by 2.4%. Error and connection complaints went down for all other types of service. Poor cellular coverage issues appeared in the top ten issues in all states and territories except the Australian Capital Territory.

Some providers saw significant improvements in complaint counts in 2021-22. Complaints about Telstra were down 43.7% this year, and complaints about Southern Phone were down 47%. Complaints mounted at Aussie Broadband, Dodo and Medion.

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The number of escalated complaints decreased by 36.8% during this period compared to the previous year, with most unresolved complaints remaining about customer service, billing issues and service outages. Escalated complaints about poor cellular coverage issues fell at a much slower rate than other issues, just 5.7%, while most other issues fell by over 30%.

“It’s really gratifying to see the significant drop in complaints this year,” says ombudswoman Cynthia Gebert. “Telecoms have done well to work with consumers to solve most problems before they come to us.

“Our data shows that over the last fiscal year, as the pandemic cooled, fewer premises were connected to the NBN network, and improvements were made in the industry, internet complaints dropped significantly,” she says.

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“But we haven’t seen the same improvements in cell service, and there has been an increase in the number of people who have complained to us about poor cell coverage.

“Mobile services are essential for things like banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, and socializing, and consumers tell us their lives get disrupted when they have problems with their mobile service,” says Gebert.

“While we’ve seen some big improvements, Australia’s telcos need to do more to resolve cellular service complaints, including poor cellular coverage, before consumers come to my office for help.”

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