Mobile problems and data breaches top issues for phone and internet users

Consumers and small business made 66,388 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman over the financial year ending 30 June 2023, and believe it or not, that was a 16.5 per cent decrease on the previous year, but could have something to do with the one hour plus call wait time.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman highlighted all the issues bugging consumers in their Annual Report 2022-2023 published today, and complaints about mobile phone services remained steady against the trend of overall decline.

The proportion of complaints about mobile services accounted for 48 per cent of complaints, the highest proportion of complaints in six years. The issues behind the complaint numbers about mobile services were partly related to the Optus data breach in September 2022.  

For all service types, increases in complaints were recorded against poor customer service, failure to cancel a service, inadequate fault testing, and non-financial loss (time lost, inconvenience, stress). Positively, all other problems in the top 10 complaint issues decreased during the period. 

Complaints relating to financial hardship increased 1.2 per cent. The majority of these complaints were experienced by residential consumers who had problems with their mobile service. Victorians accounted for the highest number of complaints (541) for financial hardship, up 7 per cent on the previous year. While low in volume, Western Australia had a 12 per cent increase in complaints about financial hardship.

The Local Government Area (LGA) with the highest number of complaints was Brisbane (2,477). This was followed by the Gold Coast (1,404), Moreton Bay (1,108), Sunshine Coast (875) and Canterbury-Bankstown (835).

The TIO received 8,305 complaints from small businesses, a decrease of almost 25 per cent on the previous year and the lowest volume of small business complaints in the last three years. This is the first year that mobile services have been the dominant service type for small business complaints, accounting for a proportion of 33.5 per cent. 

Complaints about Optus increased 29.5 per cent in in the previous financial year, with increases also reported against Vodafone and Southern Phone. Telstra experienced the biggest decline during the period, recording a drop of almost 36 per cent. 

Quote attributable to Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert:

“It’s pleasing that complaints are declining alongside industry improvements for phone and internet consumers. Despite this trend, complaints about financial hardship are increasing as the cost-of-living crisis puts pressure on Australian households. The complaints data shows that over the past year, Victorians and Western Australians had a tough time paying for their phone and internet services.

“Telcos need to make sure they are offering flexible payment methods and specialised help and support for people who are struggling to pay.

“Most of our complaints about financial hardship relate to mobile services, which now make up nearly half of our overall complaints.

“Phone and internet services are essential for banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, as well as staying in touch with family and friends. It’s critical that people have access to these services, and consumers can easily get help when things go wrong.”

Complaints by state and top five LGAs

New South WalesVictoria
20,486 total complaints (23 per cent decrease)Canterbury-Bankstown — 835 complaintsCentral Coast – 825 complaintsBlacktown – 811 complaintsSydney – 576 complaintsPenrith – 533 complaints19,325 total complaints (16.1 per cent decrease)Wyndham — 788 complaintsCasey — 783 complaintsWhittlesea — 687 complaintsHume — 663 complaintsMelton — 575 complaints
QueenslandWestern Australia
12,914 total complaints (14.9 per cent decrease)Brisbane – 2,477 complaintsGold Coast – 1,404 complaintsMoreton Bay – 1,108 complaintsSunshine coast – 875 complaintsLogan — 736 complaints5,644 total complaints (5.3 per cent decrease)Stirling – 436 complaintsWanneroo — 410 complaintsSwan – 357 complaintsRockingham – 271 complaintsJoondalup — 259 complaints
TasmaniaNorthern Territory
1,151 total complaints (11.5 per cent decrease)Clarence – 108 complaintsGlenorchy – 95 complaintsHobart — 87 complaintsLaunceston — 72 complaintsKingborough — 67 complaints387 total complaints (20.5 per cent decrease)Darwin — 102Palmerston — 52Litchfield — 40Alice — 18Katherine — 10
Australian Capital TerritorySouth Australia
1,020 total complaints (4.9 per cent decrease)5,399 total complaints (6.3 per cent decrease)Onkaparinga – 450Port Adelaide Enfield – 399Salisbury – 379Charles Sturt – 340Playford – 320

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