A report released today from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has revealed that the TIO received a record 197,682 complaints in 2010-2011, up 18% from the previous year.
Of these complaints, 112,000 related specifically to mobile phone services, and just under one third of these (32,000) were complaints relating to Vodafone. The most common complaint related to concerns about coverage and service drops outs, with the TIO recording a 180% increase in this style of complaint.
In a statement to PC & Tech Authority, Vodafone stated it “acknowledged the sharp rise in customer complaints to the TIO”.
“We had a number of network and service challenges at the end of 2010 and early 2011 and we are now making significant investment and improvements in the Vodafone network,” said Cormac Hodgkinson, director of Customer Service and Experience at Vodafone.
“Some of the network issues at the start of the year, and the ensuing rise in the number of complaints we received impacted customer service. This was difficult for our customers to endure, so we changed the way we operate to make things easier for our customers,” explained Hodgkinson.
Vodafone highlighted its changed to its customer service, with 300 new staff added to reduce wait times, as well as 24/7 service for both post- and pre-paid customers.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), in its own release, said that the TIO report was a 'failing grade' for the telco industry.
“The telco industry has scored another ‘F’ this year for customer service and complaint handling for failing to address its customers’ problems in a timely manner,” ACCAN Chief Executive Officer Teresa Corbin said.
“Worryingly still, while complaints are higher than they have ever been, research tells us these complaints are only the tip of the iceberg. There any many more customers who are unaware of the TIO’s existence or simply worn down by the many hours spent trying to resolve complaints over the phone with their telcos.”
ACCAN also highlighted that, while Vodafone might be the most prominent of the telcos named, complaints were up across the board for all the top telecommunications providers, with the exception of Telstra who actually saw a drop of 3% in TIO complaints.
The TIO report also showed that complaints regarding landlines, internet and mobile premium services were down for 2010-11.
“MPS complaints are down almost 50 per cent, which reflects positively on stronger government and industry regulation,” Ombudsman Simon Cohen said.
Potential industry regulation will be forefront in the minds of many telcos in the wake of the damning Reconnecting the Customer report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). ACMA has given the industry a February deadline to incorporate a number of changes to its Telecommunication’s Consumer Protection code or ACMA will “mandate changes through direct regulation”.