Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Optus blames Apple iPhone 6 for rising phone, internet complaints

Complaints lodged by phone and internet customers with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman have hit an eight-year low but Singtel-Optus has defied the trend with unhappy users on the rise thanks to Apple's iPhone 6.

The TIO received 3699 customer complaints about Optus during the three months ending December 2014 – up 11.7 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier. By comparison, Telstra's complaints rose by 0.7 per cent while Vodafone Hutchison Australia's fell by 44.7 per cent during the same period.

A spokeswoman for Optus blamed problems related to its hugely popular launch of the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for the rise in complaints.

"This was mainly due to supply issues, operational challenges and contract disputes related to the launch of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus," she said. "We're disappointed in the results for this quarter and are working hard to ensure our customers have a positive experience with Optus."

She also said Optus had fewer new complaints thanTelstra and Vodafone Australia.

But the industry as a whole performed well.

In 2011, Australia's phone and internet services were dire enough to spawn websites dedicated to angry customers and slick YouTube comedy videos roasting poor customer service.
Complaints drop with new plans

By comparison, 2015 has become a year to celebrate as new plans that help reduce bill shock have led to a cut in complaints.

"The TIO received 29,560 new complaints in October to December 2014, the lowest since July to September 2007 when 26,632 new complaints were recorded," it said in a statement.

"The TIO also recorded the lowest number of new complaints about mobile coverage problems since April to June 2010."

The results come amid major pushes by all Australia's top telcos to improve customer service and prevent users from leaving their networks as industry-wide subscriber growth slows down. This is partly because most Australians are already connected to mobile and fixed-line phone and broadband services.

It is generally cheaper for a telco to spend more money keeping a customer happy than it is to get a new client.

The importance of boosting customer satisfaction was highlighted by TPG Telecom's recent $1.4 billion purchase of Perth-based rival iiNet, which has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Australia's best providers of customer service.

Of Australia's three biggest carriers, Vodafone Hutchison Australia saw the biggest reduction of complaints to 5355 in the last three months of 2014 – a 44.7 per cent fall compared with the year before. But it still gets more complaints per customer compared with Telstra and Optus.

The number of complaints from users of the national broadband network also rose to reach 1414.

"Connections continued to be the most common issue about NBN-related new complaints," the TIO said. "While complaints identified as NBN-related arise from services provided over the NBN, this may not mean it has been directly caused by the NBN or NBN Co."

TIO Ombudsman Simon Cohen said new products launched by mobile service providers to prevent bill shock were helping slash the number of complaints reaching his organisation, as were his organisation's campaigns.

The Optus spokeswoman later clarified that operational challenges were related to Optus' delivery of phones and logistical processes and that contract disputes related to its customers.