The good news? Overall complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have fallen over the past year. The bad news? Too many people are still being shafted for excess data charges.
Complaints picture from Shutterstock
The TIO's annual report shows that it received 138,946 complaints in 2013-2014, a 12.4 per cent drop on the previous year and the lowest total in six years.
The biggest source of pain continues to be excess data charges. There were 14,534 complaints about data charges, up 27.2 per cent from the previous year. And the dollar totals involved are high: half involved sums bigger than $440, and more than 60 people complained about data bills of $10,000 or more.
A key lesson from this? Make sure your plan has adequate data for your needs. Mobile providers have on the whole become stingier with data allocations in recent years — if you're regularly paying an excess fee, then it's time to start looking around. If you switch to the right prepaid plan, you can avoid bill shock and often receive a higher data allocation than on a contract.
One common cause of data bills being high is overseas travel, though the TIO said roaming-specific complaints were down 35 per cent. While we have recommendations for the best roaming deals from each Australian carrier, we still advocate using an overseas SIM whenever possible. It's hard to experience bill shock on a prepaid SIM.
Mobile reception appears to be improving, with complaints about coverage down 54.6 per cent and complaints about mobile service faults down as well. Good to see all that network investment is having an effect.
Inevitably, the big three mobile companies dominate the statistics: Telstra, Vodafone and Optus account for 77.7 per cent of all complaints. We'll drill into the numbers in a future article to see which carriers are experiencing problems and where the pain points are.