Recent statistics released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) indicates that consumer complaints relating to mobile premium services (MPS) are dropping.
The figures show that MPS complaints topped 800 in July 2009 but fell to 260 in December 2009, and complaints have remained relatively steady at 300 in January 2010 (the TIO attributes the slight increase to consumer spending during the Christmas period). The TIO believes that the introduction of the new MPS Code in July last year provided greater regulation for the industry and says consumers are now better protected.
“While we cannot attribute the improvement to a single provision, the tightening of the rules around the advertising and promotion of MPS has been significant,” said TIO spokesperson John Dubois.
The TIO said that although complaint numbers have dropped, telcos and content providers needed to improve communication with consumers.
“While overall complaint numbers would suggest [that mobile phone and content providers have improved customer communications], 97 per cent of MPS complaints are resolved at Level 1 [without the need for significant investigation by the TIO),” said Dubois. “That indicates these disputes should, and could, be resolved easily through better communication.”
The most common complaint to the TIO continues to be in relation to automatic subscription to services that customers claim that they never asked to receive. This was followed by consumers saying that they were not given the correct advice on how to resolve their complaint, or they are unable to reach the content supplier of MPS.
“Telcos have an obligation to provide clear and accurate information about their services,” said Dubois. “But customers must also ensure they fully understand their contracts and ask questions if they do not.”
The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s website has a series of fact sheets for consumers as well as answers to a number of commonly asked questions on mobile premium services. These include useful tips to avoid problems with MPS.