Telco complaints by consumers decreased by 2 per cent on the previous year, according to the 2012 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) annual report.

Consumers made 193,702 in 2011-12.

Ombudsman Simon Cohen reported positive signs about improvement in the telco industry late in the 2011-12 financial year.

“There has been a clear trend, since April 2012, of reduced complaints, with the last quarter of 2011-12 being our quietest for almost two years,” he said. “This is a positive sign that reflects the focus by a number of telcos on improving their customer service.”

However of those overall complaints, mobile phones complaints ranked the highest, increasing by 9 per cent to 122,834 from 112,376 in 2010-11.

Cohen said two out of three complaints made to the TIO were about mobile phones, reflecting the rising use of smartphones.

Poor coverage, billing disputes and the quality of information given to consumers at the point of sale were common issues in these complaints.

The TIO annual report highlighted ongoing billing and credit issues related to mobile services as a particular concern.

Complaints about bill accuracy and usage charges, and disputes about financial over commitment, all increased substantially during 2011-12.

“Complaints about unexpectedly high bills and unnecessary financial over commitment point to the urgent need for strong spend management rules, including those that are included in the new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code,” Cohen said.

“While these rules do not apply until 2013, or in certain cases 2014, it is a positive sign that some service providers have already taken steps to introduce better consumer notifications about high usage.” 

The annual report also shows a rise in complaints about credit default listings. Complaints about consumers being credit default listed while their debt was in dispute increased 18 per cent from 3,700 to 4,370. There was also a 16 per cent increase in complaints about consumers being credit default listed without proper notification, up from 3,220 to 3,730.