Phone and internet complaints increase following outages


The latest data from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reveals that consumers and small businesses made 14,671 complaints between October and December 2023, an increase of 13.4 percent compared to the previous quarter, but a 17.9 percent decrease compared to the same time last year.

The most notable increases were in complaints related to a network outage and complaints about no phone or internet service, following the Optus Outage on 8 November 2023.

The TIO received 919 complaints from consumers who were impacted by the Optus outage, with 20 percent of these from small businesses. Most consumers sought outcomes including credits, a refunded or discounted service, financial compensation, exiting a contract early, or apologies from the telco.

Overall, six of the top ten issues increased compared to last quarter, with complaints about customer service and problems with a bill continuing to be the top issues for consumers.

Following complaints about a network outage or no internet or phone service, the largest increase was for complaints about a delay establishing a service (25.8 percent increase). The Local Government Areas (LGAs) with a significant increase in complaints about a delay establishing a service were all in Queensland – Gold Coast (43.7 percent increase), Moreton Bay (16 percent increase), and Logan (72.7 percent increase).

Complaints from small businesses made up 12 percent of all complaints, and increased 7.2 percent in volume compared to the previous quarter. Complaints about business loss increased 35.7 percent and was the third most complained about issue for small businesses, after customer service problems and problems with a bill.

This quarter 451 people contacted the TIO about problems with financial hardship or repayment arrangements. Of these contacts, 331 were raised as complaints, a decrease of 5.7 percent compared to the previous quarter.

Other key points:

  • Complaints about internet services increased 23.3 percent compared to the same time in 2022 and made up more than a third of all complaints to the TIO.
  • The top five LGAs with the highest complaints were Brisbane (602), Gold Coast (323), Moreton Bay (291), Sunshine Coast (213) and Wyndham (206).
  • The TIO received 402 complaints from consumers who identified as First Nations – a substantial 78.7 percent increase from the previous quarter. This jump is attributed to improved data collection as more First Nations consumers share their information with us.
  • After English, Arabic and Hindi continued to be the most used languages spoken by consumers who approached the TIO.
  • Complaints about Telstra comprised 36.8 percent of all complaints, and complaints about Optus made up 31.4 percent of all complaints.
  • By volume, nine of the top ten providers recorded increases in the last quarter, with only Southern Phone registering a decrease of 28.9 percent, from 294 complaints to 209.

“Whenever there is disruption in the telco industry, we see complaints increase – and this is exactly what has happened with the Optus outage on the eighth of November,” said Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert. “For some people, the offer of free data to compensate for a full day outage is fair and reasonable. But businesses who lost profit, people who couldn’t call triple zero, or who experienced other significant losses told us that free data is not enough. Despite the increase in complaints this quarter-on-quarter, it’s really pleasing to see that financial hardship complaints have decreased, along with the continued year-on-year decline. If consumers or small businesses need help resolving a phone or internet problem with their telco, they should contact us on 1800 062 058 or make a complaint online.”


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