ACA report: Telco customers still dissatisfied with service levels

The annual Telecommunications Performance Report for 2003/04 has found high levels of customer dissatisfaction with the service Australia's biggest carriers currently provide.

According to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), more than a third of homes and small businesses are dissatisfied with customer service levels.

Released yesterday the report found 67 percent of homes and 65 percent of small businesses believed that line rental costs were too high and more than a third of these subscribers were also dissatisfied with the level of customer service.

Compared to the growth in mobile phone services, fixed telephone services remained fairly stable, with about 11.7 million fixed telephone services at the end of June 2004.

Mobile phone services grew by 15.4 percent to a total of 16.5 million by June 2004.

ACA chairman Allan Horsley said the report identified a significant change in the way services were delivered to consumers due to carriers offering fixed telephone services using internet protocol (IP) technology, but added that rural services were still of particular concern to the ACA.

"The report found some NT service areas suffered from extreme weather while northern NSW exchanges were hampered by ageing infrastructure and in some areas, a lack of lightning protection," Horsley said.

"An ACA-monitored Telstra program to improve the nation's 54 worst telephone exchanges, many in rural areas, would help solve these problems, but the industry is performing well overall.

"The targets are being met 90 percent of the time and I think that's a pretty reasonable situation."

Of the Telstra services that missed the CSG (Customer Service Guarantee) timeframes during the period, 93.5 percent were connected within five days of the connection timeframe, and the remaining 6.5 percent of services that missed this were considered to be 'extreme cases of failure', of which most were made within 10 working days.

Horsley said while Telstra's performance in meeting timeframes for the repair of payphone faults improved, the ACA considered the performance was low in remote areas, where only 72 percent of payphone faults were repaired within the required timeframe.

Labor communications spokesman Stephen Conroy said the report came at a time when the government was attempting to bolster Telstra up for sale rather than fix its problems.

"The widespread dissatisfaction with Telstra's pricing and the continuing poor service standards will not be addressed by privatising Telstra," he said.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan said the ACA report painted a positive picture overall for the Australian telecommunications industry.

"It is pleasing to see that Telstra's fault repair performance for the 03-04 period was the highest it has been for three years with just over 90 percent of faults fixed within the customer service guarantee guidelines," the minister said.