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Telcos could pay fines, compo: minister

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April 17, 2018

Minister Mitch Fifield has warned telecos that complaint rates are too high and they may face fines.

Telecommunications giants have been warned to lift their game following the release of eye-watering half-yearly complaints figures, with the federal government launching a fresh review into customer safeguards.

More than a quarter of the 84,914 complaints by residential and business customers to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman were about services delivered over the NBN.

The majority of NBN complaints made in the six months to December 31 were in regards to service quality, with customers unsatisfied by provider responses, while other issues were around connection delays.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the existing model for complaint handling and redress was not working, and a root and branch review was required.

"No matter who the responsible party is, the complaints figures are simply too high," Senator Fifield said.

"The current model for protecting consumers needs reform."

NBN Co says of the 22,827 complaints to the ombudsman about retail services delivered over the network, it received only 1052 complaints to resolve - a decline of 16 per cent compared to the same corresponding period.

Ombudsman Judi Jones said while the increase in NBN complaints is not surprising given the growing number of connections to the network, the rise is concerning and the service is still not meeting expectations.

Overall complaints rose 28.7 per cent on the same period in 2016, with multiple services contributing the bulk (30.8 per cent), followed by mobile services (29.4 per cent) and internet services (28 per cent).

Complaints increased across all states and territories with Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia recording particularly high increases of over 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2016.

"Customers are continuing to experience poor service and are unable to get their service provider to satisfactorily resolve issues," Senator Fifield said.

"The fact that complaints to the TIO are still high across all types of fixed line and mobile services clearly shows that the telcos need to lift their game."

The review will aim to ensure customers have access to effective and transparent complaint handling and redress schemes, with telcos held to account through compensation and penalties.

It will also look to guarantee consumers are given reasonable time frames for connections, repairs and appointments, are able to make informed choices, and are treated fairly.

Recommendations will be provided to the government by the end of this year.

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