Complaints from customers who can’t reach their telco up 1,500 per cent, report finds

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Customer complaints about being unable to reach their internet or phone companies have increased by 1,500 per cent, a new report has found, with coronavirus shutdowns blamed.

More than 2,000 frustrated customers made an official complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in the 2019-2020 financial year.

The deluge of complaints, which represent a 1,500 per cent increase from the previous financial year, was highlighted in a TIO report released today.

Ombudsman Judi Jones said the early months of the pandemic were a “challenge” for both customers and retailers alike.

“Overseas call centres and back-office functions had to close and it was really frustrating for consumers at that time not being able to contact their provider,” she said.

Ms Jones said she spoke to the major telco providers on a daily basis to report the surging complaints.

She said customers complained “not only about being unable to contact their provider but about the underlying issue that prompted them needing to talk to their telco in the first instance”.

Overall, more than 127,000 complaints about landlines, mobile phones and internet services were lodged, which was a slight decrease of 4 per cent compared to last year.

The internet was the most complained-about service, making up about 42,800 complaints alone.

NBN issues rise as more customers come online

While overall internet complaints dropped slightly this year compared to last, National Broadband Network (NBN) grievances rose about 5 per cent.

That included 6,235 complaints related to NBN phone lines and 19,045 about NBN internet services.

Sydney woman Sue Danks was working from home before the pandemic hit.

She said her business suffered after switching to the NBN when her landline stopped working.

“Weeks after the internet and telephones were connected, I had a client ring me on my mobile and say, ‘Sue, don’t you want the work?'” she said.

“He said: ‘I’ve been ringing you and you have not been returning my calls and you are not answering your phone.’

“That is how I found my business phone was disconnected but the redirection from the phone to my mobile wasn’t working.

“Telstra was saying, we can’t do anything about it … all our engineers are in India and India is in lockdown.”

Ms Danks has since been credited for the several months she was without the service.

More than 1.7 million premises were added to the NBN network in the last year, with more than 7.2 million now active across the country.

A spokesman for NBN Co said the corporation has worked hard to address core complaints.

“This includes continuing to meet the expectations of our customers by connecting them right the first time and if there is a fault on the network, we want to ensure it’s restored in a timely manner.”

“Collaboration with industry is critical to achieving this and we are committed to working with service providers to ensure Australians have a good experience on the NBN access network.”

Seventy-nine-year-old retiree Hugh Mackintosh, who lives in an Aveo retirement village in Sydney’s north, signed up for the NBN about four months ago but is still waiting to be connected.

He said technicians found a fault in the line between his unit and the NBN terminal on the street 20 metres away but no-one has taken responsibility to fix it.

“Quite frankly if I was 10 years younger, I’d try and fix it myself — it’s very frustrating,” he said.

“I just hotspot from my mobile phone and we only get two bars of reception on that even where we are and at times it just doesn’t work.

“You can forgive a certain amount under the present circumstances but I just think it’s not right.”

By Josh Bavas (Original ABC Article)

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