There were 18,478 complaints from small businesses, a 5.2 per cent volume decrease on the previous year, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report 2019–20.
By service type, complaints from small businesses related to landline services accounted for 28.7 per cent of all complaints, followed by mobile services accounting for 21.7 per cent and internet services making up 18.4 per cent of complaints.
Meanwhile, 30.6 per cent of small business complaints related to multiple services (a combination of either landline, mobile and/or internet).
There was also a reduction in seven out of the top 10 issues relating to small businesses compared with last year. A notable exception was complaints relating to phone numbers, which rose by 12.8 per cent.
The biggest improvements were a 12.9 per cent reduction in intermittent service or dropouts and a 6.7 per cent fall in no phone or internet service complaints.
New small business complaint issues in the top 10 related to business loss as well as failure to cancel a service.
Overall complaints — across consumers and small businesses — during the bushfire and flood season between January and March 2020 saw a 70 per cent increase in complaints relating to not having a working phone or internet service compared with the previous quarter.
Also of note was the COVID-19 pandemic putting significant pressure on telco call centres and back-office functions based overseas, forcing many of these functions to close.
The TIO said this led to an almost 1,500 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of complaints from consumers who were unable to contact their telco about internet services.
“While the complaints we deal with stem from technology, the problems we are solving are ultimately human ones,” said TIO ombudsman Judi Jones.
“The extraordinary events of the year meant that consumers have increasingly had to rely on telecommunications services and internet to continue to live, work and educate, and many have faced frustrations as providers worked to adapt to unprecedented challenges.”