How do I complain about a mobile phone company?

Mobile services aren't perfect. If you're being billed incorrectly or can't get reception, here's how to get it fixed.

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If you think your provider hasn't delivered on the service you signed up for, you have the right to lodge a complaint. For example, you might lodge a complaint over:

  • A faulty handset
  • Drop-outs and poor coverage
  • Billing mistakes
  • Contracts

Here's how to go about it.

Before lodging a complaint

Before you start lodging formal complaints, it's important to be clear on a few things:

  • The exact reason for your complaint
  • What action you'd like your provider to take to resolve your complaint (e.g. fixing your problem or providing a refund)
  • That the issue is an unreasonable failure of your service (e.g. isn't a short, one-off outage or a fee included in your contract)

Tip: Document everything
When going through with lodging a complaint, you should keep detailed records as evidence for later resolution. This includes:

  • Time of service interruptions
  • Detailed call logs, including who you talked to, their position in the company and date/time of the call
  • Anything your provider promised to do to resolve the problem
  • Any emails or other documents related to the issue

Step 1: Contact your service provider

When lodging a formal complaint, your first port of call will be the service provider itself. Companies are generally required to have a complaints handling policy, detailing how they deal with customer complaints.

After you lodge a complaint, the company should provide you with:

  • Acknowledgement of your complaint
  • A timeframe for when they'll resolve it
  • Details on their complaints handling process

You can find the contact details of a couple of common mobile providers below. If your provider's contact details aren't listed below, you should be able to easily access it on their website.

  • Telstra complaints number: 132 200
  • Optus customer service number: 133 937
  • Dodo customer service number: 133 636
  • TPG customer service number: 131 423
  • iiNet customer service number: 132 258

Step 2: Contact the TIO

If you've raised a complaint with your provider, you can escalate the issue to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). The only prerequisite is that you must have made a reasonable attempt to resolve your complaint with the provider first.

You can make your complaint via the TIO website.

What can't the TIO help me with?

The Ombudsman can only deal with certain kinds of complaints. They will not help with:

  • The kinds of services offered or not offered by a provider
  • Service availability due to infrastructure
  • Rates charged by providers
  • Anti-competitive business practices

How to get the best result

There's no guaranteed way of getting what you're after. If you're making a complaint, here are a few best practices to ensure everything goes smoothly:

  • Don't be angry. The staff on the other end of the line will be more likely to help you if you're civil.
  • Don't threaten action. Pairing your complaint with the threat of switching providers or similar is a bad tactic and won't help.
  • Make sure your complaint is reasonable. If you're lodging complaints over small issues constantly, it's hard to be taken seriously.
  • Make sure it's the telco's fault. Not everything is the company's fault. It could be that key instructions weren't followed correctly, or a contract has been misunderstood.

What providers receive the most mobile service complaints?

If you're looking to lodge a complaint against your provider, you're usually not the only one. We've taken a look below at the top 5 most complained about telcos according to the TIO's report from February 2021.

Keep in mind that the graph above doesn't account for the total customer base of each company. For example, Telstra has the most mobile complaints by far, but also has many times more mobile customers than a provider like Southern Phone.

If you find that you're constantly running into issues with your provider, it may just be time to switch and find a better experience.

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