The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released some data on how telcos are meeting their requirements when it comes to handling complaints. While it said the figures were generally OK, a handful of telecommunications carriers were flagged for certain non-compliance.
In July of last year, the ACMA began an audit to assess the level of compliance with telco contactability and related customer service obligations telcos have imposed on them under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (the TCP Code) and the Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018.
Essentially, the TCP Code contains protections that require telcos to deal with customer enquiries in a timely and effective manner.
For its audit, the ACMA reviewed information collected from 11 telcos for the 6-month period from 1 January to 30 June 2021.
iiNet, Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, Amaysim, Dodo, Southern Phone and Spintel, as well as “digital-preferred telcos”, Optus trading as Gomo, Telstra trading as Belong and Vodafone trading as Felix were put under the microscope by the ACMA.
Consumers made 618,711 complaints to the 11 telcos during the period (an average of 3,418 complaints per day). 578,192 (93 per cent) were made to the four largest telcos, 27,112 (4 per cent) were made to the four smaller telcos and 13,407 (2 per cent) were made to those digital players. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in December said it received 119,400 complaints in 2021, which are mostly escalations.
The ACMA audit flagged areas of non-compliance in its report.
“The audit indicated that well over half of the telcos (7 of the 11) were not meeting all the requirements under the Complaints Handling Standard to consistently acknowledge complaints within minimum timeframes,” the ACMA said.
Here’s some stats on wait times:
- The monthly average initial time a caller had to wait when contacting their telco by phone varied by telco over the relevant period, ranging from 9 seconds to just over 9 minutes. Half of the telcos had at least one month where the average wait time exceeded 5 minutes, however.
- Of the four telcos that provided data on email wait times, three had an average email wait time of 24 hours or fewer over the relevant period. The other telco’s average email wait time was 69 hours. (I wanna say ‘nice’, but this isn’t exactly nice).
- For the five telcos that provided data on online app wait times, three had an average online app wait time of 20 minutes or fewer over the relevant period. The other two telcos’ average online app wait times were 84 minutes and 198 minutes.
- For the eight telcos that provided data on online web chat wait times, six had an average online web chat wait time of 10 minutes or fewer. The other two had wait times of 63 minutes and 89 minutes.
Seven telcos were not consistently meeting the requirements under the Complaints Handling Standard to acknowledge complaints within minimum timeframes. Further non-compliance, the ACMA said, was that not all telcos were able to provide sample complaint data for all the contact methods available to customers for making complaints.
Five telcos offered certain contact methods for customer service enquiries but were unable to provide data on their rate of first-contact resolution for each of those contact methods.
“This raises questions about their compliance with TCP Code requirements to effectively monitor the level of first-contact resolution, take reasonable steps to understand the root causes for why enquiries cannot be resolved at the first contact and address those root causes,” the ACMA wrote.
“We will be raising these matters with the respective telcos.”
The ACMA said overall, the audit results were positive and that generally, the telcos complied with their obligations to inform customers about the ways in which they can contact the telco to make an enquiry or complaint. 10 of 11 of the telcos allowed for complaints to be made via phone, email, online and letter (as required).
Worth noting, however, is that the 11 telcos each use different strategies when responding to customer service enquiries and complaints, which makes it a little hard for direct comparisons.