I am pleased to present this report on the activities of my office during a year of tremendous change.
In 2010-11, the TIO received 197,682 new complaints. This was an increase of more than 17 per cent from the previous year, and our busiest year on record. Mobile phone complaints were responsible for this increase – up more than 50 per cent to over 112,000 new complaints.
While the well publicised network and customer service issues affecting Vodafone in early 2011 were the cause of much of this increase, this company was not alone in receiving more complaints. Credit management issues generally, including complaints about unexpectedly high bills, continued to increase.
There were better signs towards the end of the financial year, with new complaints decreasing somewhat in the fourth quarter. Pleasingly, the TIO had to investigate fewer complaints, reflecting that service providers take matters seriously when we are involved.
The increase in complaints this year comes in the middle of a debate about the right changes for customer service and complaint handling in the industry. We have been an active voice in this debate.
We made more than 20 submissions to government and industry inquiries to provide an independent and expert perspective.
We also raised with service providers more than 50 systemic problems – ranging from sales and transfer practices to billing and credit management issues – to improve services for large numbers of consumers.
With all these changes, TIO officers demonstrated an outstanding capacity to respond to the challenges of the past year. Consumers continue to report high satisfaction with the service we provide – more than 93 per cent of consumers we asked in a February 2011 survey stated that they were satisfied with how we handled their complaint.
In the coming year we aim to make more changes to keep improving the way we service the community. A new website and a conciliation process for unresolved complaints are just some of the improvements we will deliver.
This annual report is the first we are publishing through a micro website. I hope you find our new approach interesting and informative.