TIO Annual Report: Vodafone, Mobiles Generally Suck

Each year, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman compiles its annual report statistics and reveals which ISPs and phone companies have generated the most consumer complaints. The big losers this year? Vodafone in particular, and mobile providers in general. Here are eight useful things you can learn from the annual report.

Picture by Robert S Donovan

1. We're getting better at complaining

A total of 197,682 people complained about their provider to the TIO in the 2010-2011 financial year, a rise of just under 18 per cent on the previous year. (In the previous year, complaints had dropped by 5 per cent.)

2. Not everything gets investigated

The TIO investigated 20,635 cases — just over 10 per cent of the number of complaints. That doesn't mean it isn't doing its job: the TIO will generally only investigate a case after options for complaining to the provider have been exhausted, and 90 per cent of cases are resolved as a "level one" complaint without formal investigation. (In practice, merely mentioning to a provider that you're considering going to the TIO can be an effective strategy, since if an investigation is launched it costs the provider money.)

3. Vodafone topped the charts

Given its well-publicised network woes and its slowness in fixing them, it's no surprise that Vodafone was the most-complained about company, scoring 32,000 complaints across the year. But it wasn't entirely alone . . .

4. Mobile phones caused the most complaints

Of those 197,000-odd complaints, 112,000 were about mobile services (which means 80,000 weren't about Vodafone). Roughly half of the total (56,475) were about service faults, which was up 180 per cent on the previous year. Clearly, our expectations are often not matched by reality, no matter who our carrier is.

5. Bill shock is a big issue

10,469 people complained about "inadequate bill controls" for mobile services, which is TIO-speak for "I just got slugged with a massive bill I wasn't expecting". Complaints about internet-related charges rose by 26 per cent. This should improve in the next report, given that new regulations should require telcos to do a much better job of informing consumers on potential costs and when they are nearing monthly spending limits from February next year.

6. Nothing sucks as much as mobile

Complaints about landline provision, broadband services and premium mobile services (AKA rip-off content delivered via text message) were all down on the previous year. Complaints about ISPs dropped 13 per cent, landline services complaints dropped 1.7 per cent and premium services complaints dropped 45.6 per cent. That said, usage of the latter two categories is declining anyway.

7. Promises are rarely kept

42,300 consumers mentioned that commitments to fix issues with their services weren't actually kept. (Make sure you keep notes when talking to any provider, identifying what they have promised and when they say it will happen by. That information will be essential if you do want to escalate a complaint to the TIO.)

8. The TIO can't regulate everything

The TIO apparently regularly gets complaints about the Yellow Pages and the cost of iPhone applications, neither of which falls into its remit. Given that Yellow Pages is owned by Sensis (part of Telstra), we can maybe see how people get confused, but the iPhone example is weirder.

What area of communications would you most like to see improvements in? Share your ideas in the comments.

TIO


Comments

    Girlfriend recently got a note from vodaphone that her bill at 4 days into the billing cycle was $500 - investigation turned out that she'd gone over her data 3gb) to 4gb. Turned off mobile data network on her phone while figuring out WTF, two days later got a call to advise her that bill was now $2000 - indicating 7gb of traffic total in 6 days through her phone, when mobile network had been turned off for two days. Vodaphone still insisting it's not an error - won't give anything except date and time of data usage (times when she wasn't using the phone for the most part, and while data network was disabled on her phone for a big chunk of it). Can't imagine why they have so many complaints.

      Did your girlfriend advise them she was turning off her Radios until it was resolved? That way they also know they're off and when the usage continues to climb, both parties should know it's an error.

    I have indeed found the threat of complaining to the TIO to be an effective incentive to bring a stubborn mobile vendor tomtheir senses. Sometimes I have to resate this to multiple people, and sometimes I have to cite stats like, "So you are refusing to give me a $10 credit you feel I do not deserve so strongly that you are willing to cost (x mobile provider) $500 for a TIO complaint investigation that is likely toresult in the TIO demanding that x give me the credit anyway? Seems like an unwise way to attempt to save your employer money."

    How have senior management at Vodafone managed to keep their jobs,
    unbelievable!

      the TIO or ASIO are the ones running the phone companys as all internet data and comunication go through the government screening and phone comp can not and do not have access to your accounts ,there looking for teriousts conversations ?

    Somtimes I wonder if VF's employees actually use VF. I wouldn't be surprised if they are with another telco.

      I considered signing up to VF and went down to the shop to talk to someone. There were two guys working at the shop that day and both of them told me not to do it. Neither of them were with VF. Best customer service ever!

    "The TIO can’t regulate everything"

    I think you mean -

    "The TIO can’t regulate anything"

    The TIO are a BS POS regulator who bend over backwards to keep their telco bankrollers happy.

      They did follow up my complaint with Vodafone. Quite quickly too. I submitted the complaint explaining that I have tried to resolve the issue with Vodafone, but they kept promising but not delivering and then refused to give me back credit.

      Within 2 days of submitting the issue, I got a call from Vodafone customer service saying that they were going to give me the credit :P Too easy.

        That isn't the TIO fixing it, that's Vodafone fixing it.

      Sounds like a bitter remark from someone who jumped the gun and threatened the TIO, then didn't get the hundreds of dollars in refund/credit they thought they would.

      Prove me wrong?

    Im fairness to VF, here on the northside of Brisbane I've recently noticed a marked improvement with regards to 3G performance.

    That said, the thought of contacting VF "Customer Services" (via phone, email, Facebook or twitter) for anything slightly out of the ordinary puts the fear of God into me.

    "Pay peanuts, get monkeys"

    If you're expecting the coverage and service of telstra on a VF plan 1/3 of the price, think again :/

    My standard way of dealing with issues with phone companies is ring them once, if they don't fix it with one phone call then make a complaint to the TIO.

    i'm not going to waste my time and money ringing more than once to get something fixed when I can get the TIO to do it for me at the expense of the company that's causing the problem.

    I also usually start filling out the complaint form on the TIO website while I'm sitting on hold waiting for a 'customer service' person in India to not give me any customer service.

      And it is people with this attitude that cause the number of reported incidents to stand at 197,000, when only 21,000 require investigation. Yes, after 2 or 3 calls and no resolution I understand the desire to go down this path, but to give them a single phone call to fix the issue is pretty arrogant and self-absorbed.

        the TIO is customer service to all phone companys as all phone and internet data is screened by ASIO ,Because asio controls all phone companys it takes away service from telecomunications companys?in 3 yrs the only one that can change or help is the TIO or ASIO as everything is screened ? by them all control goes through them as they run the phone companys .big brother spying ,our country is stuffed .the banks are paranoid they will not profit ,governments are just ministers of the banks being servants ministerying the money from banks.
        i had a complaint with my3 for 18 mths and in end they gave me 2 iphones and canncelled contracts,cancelled a bill of $1200. i was transfered to vodaphone and it starting again ,im with telstra as well but the only people that have access to you account is tio or asio,

    the TIO is customer service to all phone companys as all phone and internet data is screened by ASIO ,Because asio controls all phone companys it takes away service from telecomunications companys?in 3 yrs the only one that can change or help is the TIO or ASIO as everything is screened ? by them all control goes through them as they run the phone companys .big brother spying ,our country is stuffed .the banks are paranoid they will not profit ,governments are just ministers of the banks being servants ministerying the money from banks

    if i dont use up my data , near end of cycle time it increases beyond data and im billed all ways exstra charges on my bill?
    were my bill should be $60. mth it averages $100 a mth.
    the tio are the only ones in control of all phones and data useage ???

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