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The Internet Is Now Australia's Most Complained About Telco Service

More than 43,000 complaints about Internet services were lodged by Australians in the last financial year.

While that number has decreased from previous years, the Internet has become the most complained about telco service in the country, making up almost a third of all complaints, according to a new report from the industry's Ombudsman.

Internet woes have even overtaken complaints about mobile phone services -- which have also seen a decrease in the number of complaints.

Ombudsman Judi Jones said while complaints about phone and internet services decreasing by 21 percent in the last financial year was good news for consumers,  it was only "one part of the story".

Over the last year, the ombudsman saw a 25.5 percent decease in the number of escalated complaints it closed.

Only 47 percent of escalated complaints were closed within 60 days, compared to 77 percent last year.

Photo: Getty Images

Jones said the volume of unresolved complaints received by the Ombudsman shows "an emerging picture of complexity" for technical and small business issues.

The proportion of complaints from small business jumped to 14.5 percent in the last year, despite a decrease in the number of complaints received from small business.

"Having a problem with a bill and experiencing poor customer service remain high, but our expectations for quality and reliability of internet services is increasing," she said.

"Change and complexity in phone and internet products and services means our role remains a vital one."

Telstra was the most complained about service provider in the country, with more than half of all complaints leveled at the Telco giant.

It was followed by Optus, Vodaphone, iiNet and TPG.

Photo: Getty Images

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According to the Ombudsman, Australians were most concerned about  providers not taking action or delaying action over complaints, as well as service and equipment fees across the board last year.

But the Morrison Government welcomed the new statistics, with Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher saying he was pleased with the continuing downward trend.

“This reduction in complaints correlates with actions taken by the Government, regulators and the telecommunications industry to improve transparency, accountability and consumer experience for Australian telco users,” Fletcher said.

He also said all Australians were seeing improved outcomes because all states and territories had recorded fewer complaints.

NSW (32.4 percent) and Victoria (28.7 percent) accounted for the highest amount of complaints, while the NT (0.5 percent) and the ACT (1.5 percent) had the least.

Photo: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report 2018-19

Fletcher also praised the NBN Network, which had its largest year of construction and rolled out to almost 1.5 million new premises.

"It’s especially pleasing to see a decrease of 16 percent in complaints relating to services delivered over the NBN network," Fletcher said.

"This is a testament to the continuing efforts of industry to improve customer experience."

That's despite the Ombudsman recording a complaint increase from 2.1 per 1000 premises on the network in the first half of the year and 2.5 in the second half of the year, over service quality on the NBN.

It also recorded 11,635 complaints about changing providers or establishing a connection to the NBN in the last financial year.

It said complaints increased from 6.7 per 1000 premises added in the first half of the year, to 8.6 in the second half of the year.

The Ombudsman said consumer groups were calling for the industry to be reviewed and regulated as an essential service in Australia.

The Consumer Action Law Centre on Wednesday said the identification of 53 possible systemic issues by the ombudsman showed a clear need for regulation and strengthened regulator enforcement powers to protect consumers.

CEO Gerard Brody said the centre regularly assists people with a range of issues including being sold expensive mobile plans and add-on devices without proper affordability checks and seeking fair outcomes to payment plan or hardship assistance requests.

“Industry self-regulation is failing to protect Australians,” Brody said.

“It is clear that the current telecommunications regulatory framework is not effectively addressing some of the more detrimental issues faced by consumers.”

The Government says it has introduced key measures to enforce industry standards in improving the management of complaints, availability of information and service quality.