Fewer gripes as telcos improve service

Fewer gripes as telcos improve service

Australians have made fewer complaints about phone and Internet services and the moving of call centres back home may have played a part.

Complaints about phone and Internet providers dropped more than six per cent for the past financial year despite many people challenging download limits and call quality while working from home. It was a third consecutive year of declines.

The most common complaints were about poor customer service and bills.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones said there had been an early uptick in complaints during the pandemic which later eased.

“You might have assumed with our increasing reliance on phone and Internet that there may have been an increase in complaints,” she said.

“But the National Broadband Network stood up pretty well.”

Despite the overall trend, complaints of difficulty contacting phone and Internet providers increased by 88 per cent.

Ms Jones said many of these troubles were from last year when providers closed overseas call centres due to the coronavirus.

Call centres in India and the Philippines were among those shut.

Ms Jones said customers were given different ways of contacting their provider.

“Consumers were expected to navigate online tools without being able to talk to a person,” she said.

“Some consumers found that challenging.”

The most complained-about carrier, Telstra, was among those which shifted call centre work to Australia.

Ms Jones declined to say much about whether having more call centre workers in Australia may have contributed to fewer overall complaints.

“We only see the complaints the providers don't resolve,” she said.

“But it could be that the telcos are getting more complaints and resolving them better.”

She encouraged people to contact their phone or internet provider early about problems and try to resolve them together.

If unresolved, people can contact the Ombudsman to intervene. The service is free.

TELCO COMPLAINTS

* There were 119,400 complaints made to the Ombudsman in the past financial year

* Consumers were responsible for 83.5 per cent of complaints. Small business made the remaining 16.5 per cent

* Telstra was the most complained-about provider and made up 62.1 per cent of queries

* The Northern Territory and Tasmania were the only two jurisdictions where complaints rose

Source: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman annual report 2020-21.

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