The number of complaints increased by 28 per cent in the first quarter to 5,527, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s Quarter 1 (Q1) 2020–21 Complaints Report.
Small-business complaints accounted for 16 per cent of total complaints, which is the highest proportion and volume for small-business complaints in the last five quarters.
While complaints from small businesses increased across all service types (phone, internet and landline), the highest volume and proportion increases for the quarter were recorded against “multiple services”, where a complaint relates to more than one service type with the same provider.
The problems experienced did not change from the fourth quarter, but increases were recorded against all of the top 10 issues cited by small businesses, with complaints about being unable to contact a provider and business loss compensation increasing by 47 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively.
Commenting on the Q1 results, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones said the sharp increase in complaints from small businesses is concerning, particularly as the nation attempts to revive the economy while navigating the impacts of the pandemic.
“For the third quarter in a row, we are seeing incremental growth in overall complaints. We are continuing to share the insights learnt from our data with the telcos to improve the consumer experience,” Ms Jones said.
“I have said before the relationship between small businesses and their providers is vital to the businesses’ ongoing success. Any issues between a small business and their provider in the delivery of a service can have significant consequences, and I urge the parties to work together on solutions.”
Macquarie Telecom Group executive Luke Clifton said telcos need to heed the TIO findings along with the warning given by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) this week that it wants stronger powers to crack down hard on telcos that fail to look after their customers’ best interests.
“The industry has released plenty of rhetoric on improving service and hiring at home, but data doesn’t lie. Telcos must step up and aid Australia’s economy by providing the level of service businesses need, something I firmly believe can only be achieved through hiring more people in Australia to provide that service,” Mr Clifton said.
Other insights from the first quarter revealed that internet services were still the most complained about service type, but the volume of internet complaints decreased in the quarter overall.
In the top 10 issues relating to internet services, the only change from the previous quarter was complaints about problems with add-on features.
Complaints about the top 10 providers decreased in volume and proportion compared with the previous quarter, with the exception of Telstra, Boost and Southern Phone, with Telstra recording an increase of just over 27 per cent compared with the previous quarter.