Surge in complaints about mobile phone services, watchdog reports – Sydney Morning Herald

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One telco sold an Indigenous woman a mobile phone despite no coverage being available in the area she lived in. It then asked her for $4000 to cancel the contract.
Another company was duped into swapping a customer’s sim card by a fraudster who gained access to her cryptocurrency accounts.
The telecommunications watchdog has put telcos on notice after receiving the highest proportion of complaints it has received in five years about mobile phone services. Complaints also included a high number about poor mobile phone coverage and dropouts.
Lewis Adey had to spend $6000 installing a new satellite dish to get mobile phone coverage in his flood-prone town.
Lewis Adey, who runs a yoga retreat in the Hawkesbury, had to spend $6000 installing a new satellite dish to get mobile phone coverage in his flood-prone town. “We are less than 100 kilometres from Sydney and don’t get any mobile phone access,” he said.
“We can afford it because we are a small business, but not all residents can … The landline has got worse over the years because they don’t maintain it.”
Adey and some of his neighbours have UHF radio communication in case they need to check on each other’s welfare if isolated during floods. “We can’t talk to my elderly neighbour who lives around the corner during the floods,” he said.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s annual report for 2021-2022, to be released on Wednesday, shows that mobile complaints about poor coverage have increased by 6.3 per cent compared to last year. Problems with partially restricted mobile services have increased 12.4 per cent and those about mobile service dropouts increased by 9.9 per cent in a year.
While overall complaint numbers declined, the proportion of mobile phone service complaints increased to 39.7 per cent of all complaints, up from 32.7 per cent of all complaints in the previous year. This is the highest proportion of complaints about mobile services the Ombudsman has received in more than five years.
Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert put telcos on notice about the higher number of people who complained about poor mobile coverage.
“While we’ve seen some great improvements, Australia’s telcos need to do more to resolve complaints about mobile services, including poor mobile coverage, before consumers come to my office for help,” she said.
“Mobile services are essential for things like banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, and connecting socially, and consumers tell us their lives are disrupted when they experience problems with their mobile service.”
Mobile complaints that had a fault or connection issue increased by 2.4 per cent. Fault and connection complaints decreased for all other service types.
Problems with poor mobile coverage appeared in the top 10 issues in all states and territories except for the Australian Capital Territory.
Complaints about telcos increased for Aussie Broadband, Dodo and Medion (offering products and services under the brand “ALDImobile”). The number of complaints about Telstra decreased 43.7 per cent this year, and complaints about Southern Phone dropped 47 per cent.
“Our data shows that in last financial year, as the pandemic cooled down, fewer premises were connected to the NBN network, industry improvements were made and internet complaints decreased significantly,” Gebert said.
Residential consumers and small businesses made 79,534 complaints about phone and internet services overall, a 33.4 per cent decrease compared to the previous financial year ending June 30.
Most complaints received from residential consumers were about internet and mobile phone services.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the ombudsman’s figures confirmed the job of improving coverage across Australia was incomplete.
“That’s why our Better Connectivity Plan is a priority for the Albanese government,” she said.
“Our Plan will make serious inroads to improving mobile coverage, not just through the delivery of local projects, but also through the independent national audit of mobile coverage to allow the government, telcos and industry to make high-impact investment decisions.”
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