Telecommunications woes link to NBN: Is 2017 the year of the customer complaint?

In a world of uncertainty, there remain some constants; taxes, Donald Trump's tweets – and complaints about telecommunication services.

It's what is sparking those complaints that is up for debate.

In the three months to June, complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman increased from 8.4 complaints per 10,000 services, to nine complaints per 10,000 services, continuing an upward trend for most of the past financial year.

The ombudsman releases a snapshot of the number of complaints about telephone and internet services for residential and small business customers each quarter.

Customers of telecommunication giants Telstra and Optus account for the highest number of complaints, with both increases.

Both telcos pointed the finger at the NBN.


"The data shows a significant number of the industry's TIO complaints are from customers moving to the NBN," a Telstra spokesman said.

"We are currently moving more than 21,000 customers to the NBN every week and this number will increase again as the NBN migration ramps up over the next two years, so it is clearly an area we need to do more on."

Optus also named the NBN as a major contributor to its complaint increases.

"Optus has identified three main contributing factors to the rise in complaints: NBN-related issues, including the NBN on boarding process, premium messaging/content services and data usage," a spokesman said.

"A separate systems issue that contributed to these results related to roaming usage alerts. This began and was resolved in the TIO complaints reporting period April – June."

Both telcos said they were working on improving issues around the broadband network.

But the Opposition blamed Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, with shadow minister Michelle Rowland claiming complaints to the TIO had increased by almost 88 per cent under Mr Fifield, since September 2015, when the average number of complaints was 4.8 per 10,000 services.

"Mitch Fifield claimed that 2017 would be 'the year of the customer' – it could be more accurately described as the year of the customer complaint," Ms Rowland said.

"It is clear beyond doubt that the Turnbull government is out of touch, and has no regard for the deteriorating consumer experience on their watch."

But Mr Fifield said the government had protections in place, through the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code, which was due to be reviewed in the coming months.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is working closely with Communications Alliance and other stakeholders in the lead up to the review," a spokeswoman for the minister said.

While the NBN roll out has picked up speed this year, it has not necessarily increased the number of telecommunication services in operation, with existing services – such as ADSL connections – switched off, when the NBN was switched on.