Vodafone in trouble down-under

Blighty telco Vodafone is copping the raw prawn down-under as Aussies flock to moan to their regulator about the company’s antics.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) made the unprecedented step of naming and shaming Vodafone saying that customer complaints for the last quarter have risen by 96 percent when compared with the previous quarter.

Generally complaints against telcos have risen in Australia, but Vodafone is in a league of its own lately.

The main reason for the continuing increase has been complaints about Vodafone, and its well publicised mobile coverage and customer service issues,” the second edition of the TIO Talks newsletter, released today, said

New complaints against Vodafone were highest in January 2011, with some decrease recorded in February and then March 2011, Ombudsman Simon Cohen said.

The TIO received increased complaints about landlines, internet services and a 50 per cent increase in mobile telephone complaints. Additionally, most categories of complaint, including billing, faults, contracts and credit management, shot up.

Credit management handling is one of the biggest problems for Vodafone. Aussie punters don’t understand their phone contracts and get hit hard with a bill which they cannot afford. Then it becomes a matter for debt collectors.

Next thing you know is that up comes a squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred and troopers, one, two, three are asking to see the jolly jumbuck in the customers tucker bag and it all ends badly.

A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the telco industry needed to do better at resolving complaints in the first instance.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is using the Vodafone announcement to push for Australian regulators to bring in tougher laws for the telco industry.

ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin said that complaints about customer service and complaint-handling issues continue to climb across the board.

Senator Conroy’s spokeswoman said rising complaints were the reason the government released a discussion paper evaluating whether the TIO was equipped to continue to deal with complaints.