TIO records increase in complaints despite industry focus on customer service

Spike in complaints for driven by customer frustration with Vodafone and mobile phone service issues

Despite the concerted efforts of government and industry bodies to lift customer services standards in the telecommunications sector, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has registered a sizeable increase in received complaints in the six months to December 2010.

According to the TIO, overall complaints for the July to December period increased nine per cent, driven by a sharp increase in mobile phone service issues. Mobile phone issues alone increased some 20 per cent.

Commenting in TIO newsletter TIO Talks, ombudsman, Simon Cohen, said the results came as a disappointment, considering the positive beginning to 2010.

“The increase, entirely reversing the positive trend seen in the first half of 2010, is extremely disappointing,” Cohen said. “December 2010 was one of the busiest months the TIO has ever seen and the trend has continued into 2011.”

One reason for the spike in complaints is the networking issues Vodafone has experienced, with the telco last week initiating a statement of commitment to its customers after it experienced a series of technical problems and outages.

“Customer frustration with Vodafone is understandable,” Cohen said. “It is one thing to have a service problem, but what is particularly concerning is when consumers cannot contact someone to have their problems sorted out.”

The ombudsman said he was aware of additional efforts made by Vodafone to improve customer service and would be monitoring complaints made against the telco over the coming months.

“I am aware of recent additional staffing to improve Vodafone customer service and we will carefully monitor whether this is reducing the need for consumers to come to the TIO,” he said.

In November, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) reported one in two telco customers had experienced problems with their phone in the past year, with customer service, complaint handling and technical glitches topping the list.

The same month internet service provider, iiNet, said customer service must be given a greater focus in the telecommunications industry or providers will risk high customer churn levels.

In October, the TIO went on record stating that a lack of clear information about the products and price was at the heart of the current crisis of confidence between telecommunications customers and providers.

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

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