Complaints from phone and internet consumers decreased 16.5% in the last financial year ending 30 June 2023, according to Optus.
In this period, consumers and small business made 66,388 complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, highlighted in the Annual Report 2022-23.
Complaints about mobile phone services remained steady against the trend of overall decline. The proportion of complaints about mobile services accounted for 48% 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%. 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% on the previous year. While low in volume, Western Australia had a 12% 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% 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%.
Complaints about Optus increased 29.5% 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%.
"It is 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," says Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert.
"The complaints data shows that over the past year, Victorians and Western Australians had a tough time paying for their phone and internet services," she says.
"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 the complaints about financial hardship relate to mobile services, which now make up nearly half of 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," Gebert says.
"It is critical that people have access to these services, and consumers can easily get help when things go wrong."