TIO: We're doing the telcos' job for them

A report has shown minor customer complaints have been unnecessarily escalated to the TIO

The telecommunications sector has copped flak once again after it was revealed that telcos have been slacking off on minor complaints, leaving the work to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).

The news comes just days after the government-funded Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) released a report that exposed major flaws in the sector’s customer consent practices, resulting in widespread consumer dissatisfaction.

The TIO Connect.Resolve campaign began in November 2008 to raise awareness of the alarming rise in customer service and handling complaints and to prompt the nation’s 10 largest telcos into action. At the recent campaign report launch, Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the latest statistics showed the lacklustre performance of telcos had lead to loss of consumer confidence in their service providers.

While key findings in the Connect.Resolve report indicated a stabilisation in complaint statistics for the last two to three months, ‘Level 0’ complaints, which involve small and easily resolved issues, have been unnecessarily escalated for TIO investigation. Customer service and complaints handling issues made up 35.4 per cent of all cases taken on by the TIO since June.

The saving grace is that this is only a 1.8 per cent increase during the campaign as opposed to the 46 per cent hike in 2007-08. But that has yet to impress Senator Conroy.

“The volume of complaints is simply too high and the challenge remains for the industry to respond,” he said. “I believe relatively minimal effort from the industry could greatly influence complaint numbers.”

Ombudsman, Deidre O’Donnell, was also cautiously optimistic, heartened by the success of a collaborative approach with service providers but echoed Senator Conroy’s sentiments that telcos still have a lot of work to do.

As part of the campaign, service companies received a monthly digest of their complaints to the TIO as well as customer feedback. This has been provided as a tool for telcos to clean up their act in terms of customer service.

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