Telcos taking longer to resolve complaints

Andrew BrownAAP
ACMA says smaller telcos are often not doing enough when handling complaint issues.
Camera IconACMA says smaller telcos are often not doing enough when handling complaint issues. Credit: AAP

Australian telcos are taking longer to resolve customer complaints, with most taking almost two weeks to complete, the communications watchdog says.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that while the number of complaints to telcos has fallen, the time taken to fix the issues has risen 49 per cent in two years.

A report from the authority found more than one million complaints were made to telcos in 2020/21, down from 1.7 million in 2018/19.

However, the average time taken for companies to resolve issues raised by customers is 12.2 days, compared to 8.2 days two years ago.

Authority member Fiona Cameron said the telco giants needed to do more to address customer issues.

"The time taken to resolve complaints is going in the wrong direction, and one million complaints a year is still far too many," she said.

"With so many people working from home due to COVID restrictions, it is more important than ever that telcos prioritise fixing problems, and we are looking to industry to improve in this area."

The report found the number of unresolved complaints referred to the industry's ombudsman also rose.

The rate of of complaints being escalated to the telecommunications industry ombudsman increased from 7.8 per cent to 10.7 per cent in a two-year period.

Ms Cameron said smaller players in the industry were often not doing enough when handling complaint issues.

"Seven smaller telcos have absurdly high escalation rates, just above 50 per cent, which indicates that some complaints are not being recorded in the first place, and only being logged when escalated," she said.

"This suggests that some telcos are not handling complaints at all well."

Data in the report was based on information from more than 30 of the country's top telcos.

The report comes in the wake of a group of coalition MPs backing a bill that would provide more accountability for the sector.

The bill would require customers to be left on hold for no more than five minutes, with bonuses for executives dependent on improvement to customer service.

Ms Cameron said the industry needed more accountability.

"We think it's time for every telco to make its complaints handling performance public and transparent," she said.

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