[smh] THE federal government is under renewed pressure to tighten regulation on the telecommunications sector after another big rise in customer complaints.
New complaints for the quarter rose more than 30 per cent to just under 60,000, and a spokeswoman for the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said the industry needed to do better at resolving complaints in the first instance.
Complaints from Vodafone customers to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman between January and March rose by 96 per cent from the previous quarter, to 14,670.
In a statement, Vodafone said complaints did indeed rise "sharply", particularly in January at the "peak of network and service issues". But it said decreases were recorded in February and March, "with a significant decrease in [ombudsman] complaints in April, similar to November 2010 levels".
The ombudsman said that most other large service providers also had an increase in complaints, although it did not reveal those figures.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network pushed for regulators to adopt tough new regulations for the industry.
It said the complaints statistics showed 2010-11 was destined to be the worst financial year on record for Australian telecommunications customers.
''The industry will point the finger at Vodafone and say, yet again, that there is no problem. The truth of the matter is that complaints about customer service and complaint-handling issues continue to climb across the board,'' the chief executive of the network, Teresa Corbin, said.
Senator Conroy's spokeswoman said rising complaints were the reason the government released a discussion paper evaluating whether the telecommunications ombudsman was equipped to continue to deal with complaints. Submissions are on the department's website.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is also working through its Reconnecting the Customer inquiry. At the same time, the industry is revising its self-regulatory Consumer Protection Code.
''The government is considering whether new protections that enhance the well-being of consumers are needed," Senator Conroy's spokeswoman said.
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Telecommunications complaints soar again