Learn From The TIO To Get Better Phone, Broadband Deals

TelcoDrama 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

Stay calm

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.

TIO Annual Report 2008/2009 [TIO]

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    As someone who works in the industry, it's amazing the number of people who don't read the terms & conditions or who feel that they should be able to exit a contract early without penalty despite signing a contract where they agree to pay a penalty if they exit early.

    To get better phone & broadband deals and avoid later issues, it's a good idea to compare multiple plans side by side and get the whole story. You can easily compare broadband and phone bundles at sites like www.BroadbandGuide.com.au.

      Ben, I'd have to assume that your promoting your own site for you to link to http://www.BroadbandGuide.com.au

      Otherwise you'd have to living under a rock not to know Whirlpool. http://bc.whirlpool.net.au/

      Internode or TPG Internet is not even listed on "www.BroadbandGuide.com.au" (Comparing whirlpool's members top 5 ISP) let alone the many others that exist. Yet Dodo is on the list, so it's not a short list of quality ISPs ether.

    Whirlpool is a great site, but its audience it predominately techy-males who are very heavy users of broadband and being honest - like to spend a lot of time talking about it.

    For your average punter, http://www.BroadbandGuide.com.au is far more accessible and the last time I looked Internode and TPG have <5% market share between them so I am not sure they are a massive omission. Telstra and Optus have around 75% market share between them so I can only presume they are doing something right!

      "Telstra and Optus have around 75% market share between them so I can only presume they are doing something right!"

      Anyone who thinks this clearly has no idea what they're talking about..
      And any site that recommends Dodo (yes I have had personal experience with them to back up my claims) is not a site I would recommend people to use.

      This is despite the fact I agree with your summary of Whirlpool users..


      That's like saying that McDonald's and Hungry Jack's make the best burgers. We all know that's rubbish; you can get a better burger just about anywhere.

      I'm not techy but I still found Whirlpool very accessible, and it gives you the pros and cons of pretty much every ISP out there. I'll stick with Whirlpool (and Internode) thanks.

    I would have to say that site you keep pointing the average user to is rubbish. It omits a large number of ISP's which offer a greater variety of services and cheaper costs for the same products.

    As an average user I want to be informed of ALL offerings before making my mind up, not pigeonholed into looking at the offerings of a select and expensive few.

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