Modern technology gives us many things.

Phone and internet complaints decreased despite the difficulties of 2020

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Despite all the challenges we faced with bushfires and the COVID-19 lockdown, complaints about phone and internet services actually decreased in the last financial year.

Complaints about mobile services remained steady while internet and landline complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman experienced a year with wildly different halves.

In the first half – June to December 2019 – complaints about the internet and landlines continued the rate of decline from the previous quarter – a result of the sector’s efforts to improve their products and services.

But the second half of the year – January to June 2020 – started with floods and bushfires which caused issues for Australians living in rural and regional areas.

Complaints about not having access to a working phone or internet services increased by 70 per cent when compared to the previous quarter.

During this period the TIO worked closely with telcos to prioritise customers experiencing difficulties and help them reconnect.

Then between March and June 2020, the coronavirus pandemic came crashing in and we were forced to work and study from home and try to run our businesses.

But in the midst of these lockdowns, the industry, the government and regulators worked quickly to provide temporary financial relief and the NBN also provided extra capacity.

We were faced with unprecedented times but the telcos continued deliver phone and internet services.

The pandemic placed tremendous pressure on call centres and even forced the closures of many of these facilities under the weight of a 1,500 per cent year on year increase in the number of complaints from consumers who were able to contact their telcos.

The TIO responded instantly to work with affected telcos and escalate issues and provide information to assist customers.

“While the complaints we deal with stem from technology, the problems we are solving are ultimately human ones,” Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

“The extraordinary events of the year meant that consumers have increasingly had to rely on telecommunications services and internet to continue to live, work and educate and many have faced frustrations as providers worked to adapt to unprecedented challenges.

“The lessons learnt from the rollout of the NBN over the last three years has galvanised and matured Australia’s telecommunications sector.

“These lessons have strengthened the telco ecosystem with industry, government, regulators, advocates, and Ombudsman, each playing a part to ensure continuity of service for consumers in the face of great change.

“But as this year’s events have shown us, there is always more work to do.

“Each day, my office strives to resolve phone and internet complaints more effectively and efficiently.

“We are making significant progress in moving to be an agile organisation flexing to respond to the complexities of the changing telecommunications landscape.

“This was tested during the transition to working from home at the beginning of the pandemic, and I am proud of the way we looked after our people while continuing to deliver our service for telco consumers and their providers.”

Fast facts: about the TIO for 1 Jul 19 to 30 Jun 20

– 318,797 contacts were received – 174,572 online and 144,225 calls.

– 32 systemic issues were identified and investigated.

– Providers agreed to 35 systemic improvements.

– 25 decisions were referred to the ACMA for enforcement.

– 56 per cent of unresolved complaints were closed within 60 days, up from 47 per cent in 2018-19.

– 583 people attended our eight newly developed educational webinars.

– We made 34 submissions on policy consultations.

– We published six reports including our new quarterly reports.

– We formalised our commitment to our REFLECT Reconciliation Action Plan.

– Our most recent staff survey found 85 per cent of our people recommend the TIO as a great place to work.