Complaints about excess data usage charges are increasing while complaints about mobiles overall are dropping. Photo: Eddie Jim
Consumer complaints about excess mobile data charges have increased by 30 per cent in the three months to March compared with the same time last year, figures released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman reveal.
But overall complaints about mobile services dropped 19.4 per cent when compared with the same quarter last year the figures, released on Wednesday, show.
In total, the ombudsman received 36,256 complaints in the first three months of the year, 9.4 per cent less than the corresponding period in 2013.
Ombudsman Simon Cohen attributed the reduction to fewer reports about faults, which have almost halved compared with the same time last year.
Despite the overall reduction, Mr Cohen said he saw excess data charges as an emerging issue.
"The speed of phones and networks has increased and so has the data used by consumers. However, the plans they sign up for may not be matching their needs," he said.
Another emerging issue concerns consumers being charged for services that were not connected or working properly, he said.
"Where services are not connected or operating, it is not fair for consumers to be charged for the service."
The postcode with the largest number of complaints about excessive data charges was Adelaide. Parramatta in NSW had the largest number of disputed bills and Melbourne the largest number of disputed recurring charges.
Complaints about internet and landline services increased a modest 4.8 and 2.9 per cent respectively.
Responding to the ombudsman's figures, Vodafone said customers should ensure they were on the right plan "so they don't incur excess usage charges".
"We always welcome the opportunity to fix any issues a customer is having," a spokeswoman for Vodafone said. "We also have a range of products designed to help consumers manage their data allowances, include usage alerts and the option to top up with extra data packs when they need it."
Telstra said it was pleased complaints about it to the ombudsman were declining, relative to its customer base.
"While we are making many customer service improvements we know there is still much more we can do and we will continue our focus on addressing the root causes of complaints and improving the service we provide to our customers," a spokesman said.
An Optus spokeswoman said the company was committed to combating bill shock and decreasing complaints about excess data charges.