ACCAN flags concerns about NBN complaints

Quarterly TIO figures reveal big drop in mobile coverage complaints

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network is concerned about the number of telecommunications-related complaints in current NBN rollout sites.

Complaint statistics for the telco industry released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman revealed a 9.1 per cent drop in the number of new complaints related to Internet services for the quarter ending December 2013.

However, ACCAN said it was concerned with a "significant" number of complaints in NBN rollout areas including the NSW suburb of Kiama and Ngunnawal in ACT.

The telecommunications consumer advocacy group said the figures strongly suggested people in those areas are struggling to connect to the NBN. The copper network is due to be switched off in Kiama in May this year and in Ngunnawal in December, and ACCAN has previously expressed concerns about the looming switch-off in areas that have so far received NBN services.

The TIO figures revealed that overall there were 6984 complaints about Internet services in the quarter. Complaints to the watchdog organisation about these services and landline services were at their lowest level since the quarter ending December 2006, the organisation said.

Complaints made about mobile services also registered a drop of 4.9 per cent, according to TIO figures, with a substantial drop of 30 per cent in complaints about coverage.

"Consumers reported 2812 coverage issues in October-December 2013, the lowest since July-September 2010, when we recorded 2052 mobile coverage issues. Consumers reported less than half the number of new coverage issues than just six months before," the TIO's report on the figures stated.

The CEO of industry body Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), Chris Althaus, said that the fall in complaints about mobile coverage reflected telcos' ongoing investment in infrastructure.

"The mobile telecommunications industry has spent more than $10 billion on latest-generation mobile technologies, network infrastructure and spectrum in the past two years in response to strong consumer demand and increasing customer expectations of network performance," the CEO said.

"The big fall in complaints about mobile coverage not only reflect the industry’s investment in networks, spectrum and technology, but also highlights industry’s intense focus on customer service," he added.

Australian Communications and Media Authority chairperson Chris Chapman said the TIO statistics were "heartening".

"The industry is continuing to make positive changes in line with the revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code," Chapman said.