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Download Weekly: TDR complaints soar

Download Weekly - October 13

TDR complaints reach new high after awareness campaign

It’s been a busy year for the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution scheme. In the 12 months to June 2023 it handled 3725 consumer complaints.

That’s a 64 per cent increase on the previous year and the highest number in the TDL’s 16 year of operation. The previous peak was in 2019–2020.

This year’s jump in complaints came after two awareness campaigns publicising TDL services. This included television advertising.

Billing tops the list again

Following the pattern in recent years, billing issues dominated the complaints. Billing accounted for two out of every five complaints (40.6 per cent). Of these, the bulk involved disputed charges. ‘Account errors’ were a long way behind in second place.

Customer service was the next most complained about issue. Again, this follows the pattern of recent years. Top was ‘failure to action requests’. In second place was consumers having difficulty contacting their service provider.

Last month the Commerce Commission published its first customer service rankings.

This is part of the Commission’s work on improving the industry’s service quality. The rankings highlighted the woeful state of customer service. The best-rated mobile provider, Skinny, scored 46 out of a possible 100. One New Zealand, the bottom ranked company, managed a mere 8 out of 100.

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Rising installation complaints

The year saw a large leap in the number of complaints about installation. Two years earlier there were 112 complaints, in the 2022–23 report this climbed to 435. There was a similar rise in complaints about faults, up from 145 to 601 over the same period.

New Zealand’s performance is in stark contrast with Australia. CommsDay reports that complaints to Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman dropped 16.5 per cent in 2022–23.

Separate figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority show telcos received 1.037 million complaints during the year. That’s up 2.3 per cent. Yet, this reflects a growth in services. The number of complaints per service was steady.

In April, Tautohetohe Whaipainga, Utilities Disputes, started a separate forum for consumers who have broadband as part of a service bundle. It deals with more complex disputes where customers have contracts combining power and internet.

Before Utilities Disputes established this scheme, customers with service bundles needed to deal with separate dispute resolution services for both power and internet. Utilities Disputes already had a dispute service for broadband and shared property access.

Mallon to head Utilities Disputes

Lawyer Neil Mallon is the new commissioner and chief executive officer at Tautohetohe Whaipainga, Utilities Disputes. He will move to the role in December when the incumbent Mary Ollivier leaves. Mallon is the current deputy commissioner.

Mallon has experience dealing with consumer complaints and regulation. This includes banking industry complaints and fraud investigations.

PC market remains in freefall

Gartner figures show worldwide PC shipments were down nine per cent in the third quarter of 2023. That is the eighth quarter in a row that shipments have declined.

Rival research company IDC puts the fall at 7.6 per cent for the same quarter. A third outfit, Canalys, puts the figure at a 7 per cent drop.

Research companies measure shipments. This is the number of computers sent from hardware makers to retailers. The number reflects, but is not exactly the same, as retail sales.

Garter says a total of 64.3 million PCs moved from manufacturers to retailers in the quarter. Canalys puts the number at 65.6 million while IDG says it was 68.2 million.

Analysts upbeat despite the falling numbers

Canalys says the decline is the smallest for over a year. It sees this as a sign there is a recovery in underlying demand. Garter is as upbeat about the near future. It says there is evidence the PC market has bottomed out. Although it warns demand from enterprise customers remains weak. The company says the market should tick up 4.9 per cent next year.

The computer maker pecking order didn’t change in the quarter. Lenovo remains top with a quarter of the total market (25.1 per cent). The company saw a decline in shipments, but at a slower rate than the wider market.

Second place HP was the only major computer maker to experience growth in the quarter. Dell shipments tumbled by 14 per cent.

On paper Apple was the biggest loser, shipments were down by almost a quarter year-on-year. The same period a year ago saw a surge of sales as supply disruptions eased. IDC says: “Apple’s outsized decline was the result of unfavourable year-over-year comparisons”. The company remains in fourth place.

AI to the rescue? In passing, Canalys’ analysts say there will be “an additional demand boost from AI” with “AI-capable PCs” becoming mainstream by 2025. We’ll believe that when we see it.

Amazon says Amazon is good for New Zealand

From the department of motherhood and apple pie, cloud computing giant Amazon published a gushing report claiming cloud-enabled businesses will “unleash economic and societal benefits” for New Zealand by 2030.

Amazon puts the gain to GDP at $1.5 billion, but it could have picked any number. Yes, cloud is good and, sure, it can save money. Yet this report from Amazon is self-serving and almost impossible to verify. It’s not as if anyone is going to come back and check Amazon’s numbers in seven years time.

In other news…

A story in the New Scientist says Starlink and other low earth orbit satellite networks have a carbon footprint that is 30 times that of land-based broadband. It will be interesting to see how New Zealand’s telcos work these figures into their carbon reporting.

A Reddit contributor is one of many Starlink customers who recently found their account had been hijacked. The attack cost almost US$7000 and meant he was locked out of the service. It appears Starlink is inherently insecure and lacks even basic two-factor authentication. While SpaceX eventually helped the customer recover his account, Starlink’s notoriously slow and hard to reach customer service doesn’t help.

It could be time to upgrade your business fibre connection if your organisation is a heavy use of Google’s tools. The search giant says it is enabling the ability to stream 1080p-quality webcam feeds during group calls for Google Workspace subscribers.

Google has offered higher quality video since April, but that was for one-to-one calls, now it is extending this to group calls. You may need to budget for better webcams as most PCs and laptops come with low-resolution hardware.

Download Weekly: Telecommunications Dispute Resolution complaints soar was first posted at billbennett.co.nz.

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