Telco questions TIO complaint count

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Telco questions TIO complaint count

Were there that many complaints?

AAPT has questioned the methodology of a report that showed it experienced a sharp rise in customer complaints referred to the telecommunications industry ombudsman (TIO) in the six months closing 2009.

Released last week, the TIO's latest six monthly 'Connect Resolve' report [PDF] charts the progress of complaints made about telecommunications providers.

Statistics within it were used by the Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) yesterday to justify an intervention in the telecommunications industry's complaint handling system.

ACMA chief Chris Chapman said the TIO was handling some "900 complaints" every working day.

The latest TIO report found that there has been an "overall stabilisation in complaint numbers" after 18 months of sustained growth.

"There was an overall drop of 7 percent in complaint numbers in the second half of last year, continuing the trend from the campaign," the TIO report said. "Seven of the top 10 companies whose complaint statistics we reported on have continued their downward trend."

Complaints about Dodo Internet fell 15 percent, for example, GoTalk by 45 percent, Optus by 14 percent, Primus by 24 percent, Soul by 55 percent and Virgin Mobile by 21 percent.

Complaints to Hutchison 3G went up slightly, but the TIO reported they have been steadily decreasing every month since, while Vodafone was fairly flat.

Even Telstra, which is responsible for over half of all complaints made to the TIO at a count of 58,597, improved by just over six percent compared to the prior twelve months.

But complaints about AAPT were up from 2,658 to 4,028 in just six months.

"Duplicated count?

While they would not comment publicly, iTnews has learned that AAPT approached the TIO to ask whether the TIO's methodology inflates the figures.

When a telco receives a customer complaint via the TIO, the service provider is required to contact the customer within 48 hours to address the issue and to discuss a potential resolution.

If for whatever reason the telco cannot meet this timeframe and the customer calls back in to the TIO, the issue is escalated.

The first two escalations are counted as separate 'complaints' in TIO statistics; subsequent escalations aren't counted towards the numbers surfaced in the TIO report.

A TIO spokesman confirmed this approach but refuted suggestions that the way complaints are handled resulted in bloated complaint numbers being reported.

"The way we present statistics has been consistent for 10 years," the spokesman said.

Of a dispute with AAPT over the figures, he said the TIO "routinely provides statistics to members to assist with analysis and is always open to concerns."

He said that most carriers are improving on an otherwise lacklustre record on customer service, but noted that some of the simplest things aren't being done right.

"Complaint handling and customer service issues are still a high proportion of total complaints to TIO, and these often come down to simple communication problems," he said.

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