Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Statement in Response to TIO Half-Yearly Complaints Report

17 April 2018

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's latest 6-monthly update report indicates there was a total of 84,914 complaints (covering mobile, fixed line telephony, and both pre-NBN and NBN broadband) to the TIO in the 6-month reporting period (July to December 2017).

The TIO notes this a 28.7% percent increase in complaints – however, the TIO has calculated this against the July-December 2016 period, not the preceding 6 month (January to June 2017) period. When you compare against the preceding 6 month period (92,046 total complaints from January to June 2017) complaints actually decreased by 7.75%.

The TIO's 6 monthly update also reports 22,827 “complaints about services delivered over the NBN” in the 6-months of July to December 2017 – a 203.9% increase on the previous year.

This presentation could give the impression that responsibility for this figure rests with NBN Co.

Advice to Government from NBN Co is that of the 22,827 (July - Dec 2017) complaints about services delivered over the NBN, less than 5% (1,052 complaints) were sent to NBN Co as complaints to resolve.

This was over a period (six months to 31 Dec 2017) that saw a 39% increase in NBN premises activated.

The table below shows complaints as a proportion of the total premises activated on the NBN.

Year

Complaints  about services delivered over the NBN

Total  NBN-activated premises

NBN-activated  premises vs complaints (%)

Jan -June 2017

19,683

2,443,133

0.80%

July - Dec 2017

22,827

3,385,937

0.67%

In 2017, the rate of complaints for services delivered over the NBN decreased (from 0.8% to 0.67%) by approximately 16%.

Without this context and information about which party (NBN Co or retail service provider) is responsible for resolving customer complaints, organisations lack accountability, which, as today's TIO complaint numbers (irrespective of who is responsible for them) show, leads to poorer outcomes for consumers of telecommunications services.

ROOT AND BRANCH REVIEW REQUIRED

No matter who the responsible party is, the complaints figures are simply too high – the current model for protecting consumers needs reform. With that in mind, the Turnbull Government has announced a review of the telecommunications consumer protections framework for a post-2020 environment.

The review will be undertaken in three parts:

Ensuring that consumers have access to an effective complaints handling and redress scheme that provides transparency and holds telcos accountable for their performance.

Ensuring consumers have reliable telecommunications services including reasonable timeframes for connections, fault repairs and appointments; as well as potential compensation or penalties against providers.

Ensuring consumers are able to make informed choices and are treated fairly by their provider in areas such as customer service, contracts, billing, credit and debt management, and switching providers.

This review will be undertaken in addition to the new powers given to ACMA to improve the customer experience on the NBN, announced last December.

The Government is focussed on ensuring that consumers have access to effective dispute resolution and accurate information about the party responsible for resolving their complaint.

Media contacts:  
Geraldine Mitchell | 0407 280 476 | Geraldine.Mitchell@communications.gov.au
Mark Briers | 0428 965 189 | Mark.briers@communications.gov.au

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