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TIO Annual Report: 63% of complaints about mobile

  • Primus, Telstra and TPG doing well
  • Customer service still #1 issue
  • New TCP code changes may help
Written by Adam Wajnberg

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is an independent resolution service, manned by the telecoms industry, that offers free advice and conciliation for customers who have argued as far as they can with their service provider. Their report for 2011-2012 demonstrates a slight drop in enquiries for all services, but a 9.3% rise from the previous year for enquiries about mobile services.

More concerning than the increase is the sheer volume of complaints about mobile services. Of the 193,702 complaints made, 122,834 were made about mobile phone services. In this light, broadband services (which we’ve written about here) came off very well – even landline phones, an increasingly irrelevant service for many Australians, got more enquiries than broadband internet services.

Of the 19,200 cases that required further investigation, mobile plans accounted for over 12,000, a 24% increase from 2010-2011.



mobile frustration

Australians are increasingly relying on mobile services, with over 30 million mobile handsets, and over half of them smartphones capable of using a data connection. Besides being capable of doing more, the increasing sophistication of smartphones is encouraging users to use them more often. The strain this increasing usage puts on the actual airborne networks can lead to carriers using ever-more complicated techniques to discourage overuse – but this just leads to customer angst.

63% of complaints were about mobiles, but an eye-watering 88% of all complaints about financial overcommitment due to inadequate spend management tools were for mobiles. Most of that was about data usage- in fact, complaints about data usage on mobile handsets leapt by 150%.


Victoria complained the most per capita and second most overall behind NSW. 1.6% of Victorians felt the need to contact the TIO after complaints made via their service provider failed to bring about a satisfactory outcome.

But the spread of complaints-per-capita generally followed the population, and the overwhelming issues in all states remains customer service and billing.

Who did well?



As per our coverage of results on Broadband, Telstra, TPG and Dodo all saw decreases in complaints, with Telstra recording a big 21.5% drop.

Primus was the clear winner though, recording the fewest complaints (1,005) of the top ten largest telcos, a 5% drop on the year before. Most importantly, only 86 of those complaints were about mobiles. This means that for Primus, mobile complaints were a mere 8.6% of all issues, where for almost everyone else, mobiles drew 2 out of every 3 enquiries. 

A quick glance at Primus plans and offers shows a wide range of low cost plans, with some of the latest handsets available and Australia-based customer service.


The TIO anticipates that changes to the Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code will pre-empt some of these issues for a better year in 2013. Some of the changes to the code will include protections against ‘bill shock’ (including mandatory alerts for customers exceeding their data or credit limits) and per-megabyte pricing to help customers distinguish between plans. At the same time, the use of Near Field Communications (NFC) and apps will only increase, further straining networks and leaving customers scratching their heads.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) will have more impact on the market for fixed-line broadband, but will indirectly affect the mobile market as well. If customers have better options for fixed-line connections, this might lift traffic off mobile networks and increase overall network performance.

Our tips for stress free mobile

- Buy outright and get a low cost SIM only plan. Simply put, buying a phone on contract is not the best option. It’s not a rip off by any means – often your carrier is actually losing money on the cost of the phone – but the plans that come with a subsidized phone contract is miles away from the value offered on a SIM-only plan.

Many carriers right now offer a $40 monthly plan that includes unlimited calls (without exception), unlimited text and between 3 and 5 GB of data. Amaysim (1300 302 942) and Dodo (1300 136 793) both offer plans like this.


- Use data spend tools. If your carrier doesn’t have an app to check your usage, then make sure they’re sending notifications when you reach certain thresholds – 50%, 90% and 100% (or something similar). Also don’t forget to use their website to log in to your account and check how much you’re using. Of course, some of the plans mentioned above avoid all of this by making calls and text unlimited.

- Use Wi-Fi.
If you have a broadband connection at home, make sure you’re using a Wi-Fi router to distribute that signal around your home, wirelessly – smartphones and tablets can automatically connect to local Wi-Fi connections and use data that is much cheaper (and faster), rather than using expensive 3G/4G mobile data.

For any assistance, please call Compare Mobile Plans on 1300 106 571!



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