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Optus breach tips scales in mobile service complaints

Optus breach tips scales in mobile service complaints

Complaints about mobile services accounted for 48 per cent of total made to Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

Cynthia Gebert (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman)

Cynthia Gebert (Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman)

Credit: Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

Poor customer service, failure to cancel a service, inadequate fault testing and non-financial loss made up some of the top service complaints in the latest Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) report.

Mobile grievances made up almost half of the complaints made in the last financial year in the wake of the Optus data breach. 

The breach, which saw the disclosure of roughly 9.8 million customers’ personal information, created a spike in TIO complaints relating to contracts, transfers and privacy, which peaked between October and December 2022. 

Although the number of mobile complaints only increased marginally by 0.3 per cent year-on-year to 31,649, the amount marked the highest proportion of complaints in six years. 

Complaints about Optus increased by 29.5 per cent in the previous financial year, with increases also reported against Vodafone and Southern Phone. Telstra experienced the biggest decline during the period, recording a drop of almost 36 per cent. 

The unprecedented number of complaints led to the TIO setting up regular meetings with Optus to discuss the breach complaints and “develop an approach to prioritising complaints from consumers affected by the data breach”. 

In its Annual Report 2022—23, the TIO claimed that dealing with Optus complaints during that period affected its time to work on complaints about other providers. 

Overall, TIO  complaints from phone and internet consumers decreased 16.5 per cent in the last financial year ending 30 June 2023.  

Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said that telcos need “to make sure they are offering flexible payment methods and specialised help and support for people who are struggling to pay”. 

“Most of our complaints about financial hardship relate to mobile services, which now make up nearly half of our overall complaints,” she added. 

“Phone and internet services are essential for banking, shopping, accessing health and government services, as well as staying in touch with family and friends. It’s critical that people have access to these services, and consumers can easily get help when things go wrong.” 

On a geographical basis, people in Victoria accounted for the highest number of complaints – 541 -- for financial hardship, up 7 per cent on the previous year. Western Australia also had a 12 per cent increase in complaints about financial hardship. 

The top four Local Government Area (LGA) with the highest number of complaints came from Queensland with Brisbane taking the top spot with 2,477 complaints. This was followed by the Gold Coast with 1,404, Moreton Bay with 1,108 and Sunshine Coast with 875. 

Sydney suburb Canterbury-Bankstown came in fifth place with 835 complaints.  

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