I am very pleased to present the TIO Annual Report for 2014-15 as Acting Ombudsman in a year of tremendous change.
Another busy year
This year, the TIO handled 124,417 new complaints and 44,365 enquiries from Australian telco consumers, positioning our service once again as the busiest Ombudsman in the country.
The large number of new complaints indicates there is still room for telcos to improve their responsiveness to their customers’ concerns despite a marked improvement over the past four years.
Reduction in new complaintsIn 2014-15, we saw a 10.5 per cent reduction in new complaints compared to 2013-14 and a 36 per cent reduction since 2011-12.
There have been several factors driving the drop in new complaints, including improved dialogue between the TIO and telcos, a revised industry code with new consumer protection measures and large investments by telcos aimed at better servicing customer needs.
In 2014-15 there were fewer complaints about mobile coverage, excess data charges and high bills but an increase in complaints about connection delays, fault repairs and third party charges on mobile services.
Reducing our workforce
The sustained drop in complaints has made this a challenging year for the TIO. We made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce our workforce, ensuring the office had sufficient resources to deliver on our primary role of dispute resolution and other activities, while maintaining the financial stability of the TIO.
Farewell Ombudsman Simon Cohen
I want to acknowledge the significant contribution that outgoing Ombudsman Simon Cohen made in his five years at the TIO. Simon left the TIO in August 2015 to take up a senior role in the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation. During his tenure, he elevated the organisation in the eyes of all stakeholders and had a positive impact on the standard of service to telco customers. He drove changes to our dispute resolution practice through the introduction of conciliation and facilitated hardship forums and the NBN trial, bringing together the TIO, consumer and industry representatives, including retail and wholesale service providers.
I thank Simon for his outstanding work at the TIO and wish him the very best in his new endeavour.
I thank our staff for their continued commitment to the TIO and its work in helping consumers and providers resolve complaints with fairness and independence. Our staff are to be commended for their resilience and flexibility in making the adjustments that were necessary as we downsized and for their professionalism and sensitivity as we farewelled many esteemed colleagues, who I also thank for their service to the TIO.Lastly, I want to thank the Board and in particular, the Chair Patricia Faulkner, for their support and guidance during this transition period. We are anticipating an exciting year ahead as we launch our social media presence and face the challenges of major projects such as reviewing our funding model and replacing our ageing ICT infrastructure. To the staff and the Board, thank you for your support.