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Mobile

TIO complaints about excess data charges skyrocket

Despite overall complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman being at a six year low, complaints about data charges are up a staggering 27.2 percent, including one complaint about a AU$76,000 bill.

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CNET

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has released its complaints report for the 2013-2014 financial year. Overall, the results show a decrease in complaints to the TIO -- 138,946 complaints were made, down 12 percent from the previous year.

However, as previously flagged by the TIO, complaints about excess data charges were up significantly: 14,534 in the 2013-14 period, up 27.2 percent from the previous year. The majority of these, some 12,583, were complaints about mobile data. In fact, the TIO notes that "excess data charges are the number one mobile issue for metropolitan consumers".

Half of the complaints dealt with amounts of AU$440 or less. That said, 56 cases involved amounts from AU$10,000 to AU$50,000 and a further seven complaints were over AU$50,000. The highest recorded involved a charge of AU$76,103.

Interestingly, the data complaints are predominantly about domestic charges -- complaints about roaming charges were down 35 percent to just 1,253 cases. Those cases did result in some impressive dollar figures, however: 53 involved amounts over AU$10,000 and one from a traveller's phone being stolen had a disputed bill of AU$571,000.

Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone together were the target of 77.7 percent of all new complaints overall, but both Optus and Vodafone saw significant reductions in new complaints: down 18.7 percent for Vodafone and 46.9 percent for Optus. Telstra was steady, with a slight 1.2 percent increase.

The report encompasses the time period that saw the introduction of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code. From the first of September 2013 telcos have been required to inform customers when they reach 50 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent of the amount of data included in their plan.

We'll be keeping an eye out next year to see whether the TCP Code will have a greater effect on TIO complaints for the 2014-15 period.