Senator Conroy blasts telcos over complaint levels

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Senator Conroy blasts telcos over complaint levels

Communications minister Stephen Conroy has given telcos a blunt warning to either 'lift their game' in responding to customer complaints or face government intervention to make them do it.

Speaking at the launch of a Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) initiative aimed at curbing rising complaint levels, the Senator blasted telcos over the latest complaint handling figures.

The TIO reported a near 50 percent increase in consumer complaints for 2007-08 - from about 27,000 to over 52,000.

Of particular concern was a substantial surge in complaints about poor customer service and complaint handling, according to Senator Conroy.

“These statistics are a serious concern for the Government and for consumers, and they ought to be a very serious concern for the entire telecommunications sector,” Conroy said.

“Telecommunications companies need to lift their game. If that does not happen – let me make clear – that the Government will look seriously at steps we can take to ensure that the industry improves its responsiveness to consumers.”

Conroy appeared to place a review of self-regulation arrangements on the table if telcos don't take the issue seriously.

"If self-regulation is to remain viable for the telecommunications industry, it is incumbent on industry to ensure its performance improves, it listens to consumers and it responds to concerns in a serious way," said Conroy.

He continued: "The TIO statistics show consumer complaints are not being adequately addressed in many instances.

"However, they also demonstrate that this trend is easily reversible. For example, more than 90 per cent of complaints last year, were resolved when complainants were referred back to their service provider, after contacting the TIO.

"This suggests that, in many cases, industry members are unwilling or unable to resolve customer service issues unless they are compelled to do so," said Conroy.

The TIO initiative, called connect.resolve, will examine complaint trends, provide monthly analysis to larger service providers and publish the outcomes.

“Industry needs to take stock and direct its efforts to providing a better experience for consumers as a matter of priority,” added Conroy.

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