TIO 2020-21 Annual Report – Telstra cops 62.1% of complaints

TIO 2020-21 Annual report

The just-released TIO 2020-21 Annual Report (Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman) reveals 119,400 phone and internet complaints. Telstra copped the lions share with 62.1% (about 75,000) of those (52.4% in 2019-2020).

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) – Australia’s peak consumer communications body – found that while complaints about phone and internet had fallen 6.1% YoY (from 127,151), small business complaints reached 19,689 (from 18,473).

Of those

  • No or delayed action increased by 28.2%
  • Failure to cancel a service increased by 67.6%
  • Provider uncontactable increased by 181%
  • And there were the usual connection time issues; wrong accounts; wrong equipment; and failure to recognise the impact of faults on business turnover.

While it’s positive to see that the overall level of complaints has fallen, we can’t lose sight of the fact that over 119,400 people have had to escalate a phone or internet problem to the TIO because their Telco could not resolve it.

ACCAN Deputy CEO Andrew Williams

Reliable phone and internet services have never been more essential for Australia. Much of the country’s workforce and its students will continue to work and learn from home during rolling lockdowns. If you don’t get instant satisfaction, make an online complaint – it is easy. it also helps identify emerging issues that the TIO may be able to proactively address.

ACCAN believes that the telco industry regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), should more frequently and extensively audit providers’ customer service and complaints handling arrangements. ACCAN would also like to see higher penalties applied for Telcos that break consumer protection rules such as the ACMA’s Complaints Handling Standard.

Industry response

The Consumer Policy Research Centre Sector Scorecard shows that

  • Telco and credit and personal finance providers came equal last for overall consumer experience.
  • Telco and internet providers performed particularly poorly for user experience, and accessibility delivered the least proactive support such as payment assistance and ranked second last for helpful advice and customer experience.  

“The self-regulatory era of yesteryear for this sector needs to end. Telco products and services are the gateways to almost every other facet of our lives. There is a higher degree of responsibility to the community. Telco providers ranked extremely poorly on user experience, and accessibility which is disappointing and ironic, given their core business is communications. Australians deserve better from these companies.

Consumer Policy Research Centre CEO Lauren Solomon

Macquarie Telecom

“What kind of wake-up call does the sector need to meet even the most basic levels of service Australians need? Telstra should be leading the charge for better service, not be culpable for an 11.3% rise in their already staggering level of complaints. I have been vocal for many years about the short-sighted, long-term negative impact of outsourcing and offshoring Australian technical skills abroad. This appalling lack of leadership shows that Australia is being left behind with quite simply a lack of skilled Australians available to connect technology to customers’ needs. These results prove it.”

Luke Clifton, Group Executive, Macquarie Telecom


Optus is raising the bar on service with first-class customer experience our priority. While no complaint is satisfactory, we are pleased with the results in the TIO’s annual report for FY 20-21. They continue to build our momentum of reducing complaint volumes – a 27.9% reduction compared to last year.

Maurice McCarthy, Optus MD, Customer Success

TIO 2020-21 Annual Report Highlights

The TIO Annual report is a lengthy 80+page tome. You can read the full report – here are the highlights (note the TIO only deals with consumers and small businesses). NBN does not deal with consumers and issues about the internet are for its carrier service providers.

The TIO received 301,396 unique contacts by phone or online. About 30% of those don’t proceed to a complaint due to early resolution advice – is it a complaint that the TIO should handle or not?

  • 119,400 complaints
  • 83.5% (99,711) from consumer (down 8.2% YoY)
  • 16.5% (19,689) business complaints (up 6.6%)
  • The majority of residential complaints were internet and mobile phone related. Of those, the majority were with incorrect bills and poor customer service, including not being able to talk to a human agent and changing provider
  • The majority of business complaints were about multiple services (34.1%), internet (20%) and loss of revenue due to faults (13.3%)

Complaints about service providers

  • Telstra had 62.1% (up from 52.4%)
  • Southern Phone Company Ltd, and new top 10 entrants Aussie Broadband Limited, Boost Tel Pty Ltd, and Foxtel Management Pty Ltd replacing M2 Commander, Exetel and MyRepublic.
  • Optus was a star performer at 15.8 % (down 27.9%)

Systemic complaints about service providers

In 2020-21, there were 29 systemic issues, including:

  • Unable to contact their provider via phone, online webchat, or app. This was referred to the Regulator for urgent action and coincided with Telstra forcing callers to its chat service
  • Non-compliance with telecommunications complaint handling standard. This was referred to the Regulator.
  • Misleading advertising
  • Poor sales practices
  • Account security and privacy breaches
  • Unfair contract terms
  • Internet, landline, or mobile faults
  • Network service outages

More GadgetGuy TIO news

TIO 2020-21 Annual Report, TIO 2020-21 Annual Report,