Telco Complaints Are Taking Longer to Sort Out and the ACMA Isn’t Happy

Telco Complaints Are Taking Longer to Sort Out and the ACMA Isn’t Happy
Image: Getty

Australia’s telco regulator yesterday told us complaints from consumers are dropping, but the time taken to resolve them is getting higher. And today, the industry ombudsman has shown us those living in regional areas are still the forgotten bunch by a lot of telecommunications providers in Australia. Neither organisation is particularly happy.

Complaints On the Decline

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), complaints have reduced from just under 1.7 million in 2018-19 to just over 1 million two years later. This includes the pandemic-induced spike in complaints.

But there’s still 1 million of them, and that’s a lot.

The ACMA said rules it introduced in 2018-19 have contributed to a decline in complaints, but it’s a different story when it comes to the time it takes to get them resolved.

Telco Complaints Resolution Time

The ACMA said the average time taken for telcos to resolve customer complaints was 12.2 days. The time taken by telcos to fix problems had gone up by 49 per cent in two years, from 8.2 days in 2018-19.

The rate of complaints that were not resolved by telcos and had to be escalated to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have increased from 7.8 per cent to 10.7 per cent in two years.

The watchdog pointed the finger at seven smaller telcos and said they have ‘absurdly’ high escalation rates, just above 50 per cent. The ACMA said this indicates that some complaints are not being recorded in the first place and only being logged when escalated to the TIO.

“We think it’s time for every telco to make its complaints handling performance public and transparent. This would allow consumers to make more informed decisions when choosing a telco provider, including what to expect when things don’t go to plan,” the ACMA’s Fiona Cameron said.

Telco Complaints in Regional Australia

The TIO has separately published its submission to the Regional Telecommunications Review 2021, which highlights the concerns of telco consumers living outside Australia’s metropolitan centres and provides insight into phone and internet complaint trends.

For context, the TIO gets around 30,000 phone and internet complaints from consumers living in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia – each year.

These complaints are mostly around service reliability, poor service coverage, lack of choice and weak or damaged network infrastructure.

The TIO said the consequences of poor service reliability can be greater for regional consumers. It said it often takes longer to repair a fault and there are fewer alternatives available than in large cities when the service is out.

As the review is looking at what Australia can do to fix issues affecting regional consumers, the TIO has asked for government-subsidised mobile devices that can access both standard mobile networks and satellite networks. And perhaps also the construction of communal connectivity hubs for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities offering voice, SMS and data access to members of the community.