The annual report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman highlights dodgy behaviour in the communications space. Learn from the problems it has handled to minimise your own phone, mobile and Internet hassles.
The TIO is basically an office of last resort -- somewhere you can contact when repeated attempts to get billing or connection problems resolved haven't worked. Telcos and ISPs get slugged with a charge if the TIO gets involved, so the mere threat of calling them is sometimes enough to get things moving. Indeed, of the 230,065 complaints the TIO received in 2008/09, 90% were resolved by a quick referral back to the company. (Once the TIO is involved, the company has two weeks to try and resolve the problem before formal mediation begins.)
Unsurprisingly given that large number of complaints, the big theme from the 2008/2009 annual report is that many communications firms do a lousy job of communicating with their customers. Occasional issues are probably inevitable with modern comms technology; what sorts the good providers from the bad providers is how they handle those challenges, and whether problems are addressed in the manner promised.
Customers have to give their provider a reasonable chance to resolve issues before contacting the TIO, so it's not surprising that so many single out service as a problem: if you've been repeatedly ignored or lied to, you're bound to be angry. The biggest area of concern remains billing, while mobile phone services were the biggest area of complaint, where complaints levels rose by 79%. Complaints about Internet services were up 57%.
Based on the type of complaints the TIO deals with, there are some clear lessons to be learnt for all communications consumers (which is pretty much everyone).
Keep an eye on what's happened
The most common cause of complaints was disputes over usage charges. Keeping accurate records of what you've done can help resolve those kinds of issues. Regularly checking your download total each month (something you should be able to do on your ISP's site) should alert you of any potential overcharging or inaccurate measurement well before
We've said it before: No matter how annoyed you get, screaming is rarely going to help. Staying calm makes it more likely that you'll get the service you need. It also makes it easier to keep detailed notes of what's promised when, which you'll need if an issue does get escalated to the TIO.
Ask lots of questions when you buy
Almost half (45.1%) of the complaints about contracts received by the TIO related to a lack of information about terms and conditions being provided at the time of purchase. Don't sign up for any new service unless you're crystal clear on how long the contract lasts, what it costs to exit early, and what extra charges might be applicable.
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