Optus is still copping the most complaints for mobile service in new TIO report

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Seven months on from the Optus data breach, Australia’s second-largest telco is still copping the most complaints for a mobile service provider. 

That’s according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s (TIO) Q3 2023 report, which recorded 3,195 complaints concerning Optus’ mobile service between January and March in 2023. Telstra wasn’t far behind, receiving 3,166 mobile complaints during the same period.

While the Telstra and Optus numbers may only seem like a slight difference, it belies just how many of Optus’ customers are unhappy with the telco in terms of their total user base.  

Telstra has a significantly larger share of the mobile market, with the latest estimate from Statista showing Telstra retains 44% of mobile customers in Australia, while Optus has a 31% share of the market.

With 44% of the market and 3,166 complaints, Telstra only had around 72 complaints for each percent of the market it owns. Meanwhile, with a smaller 31% market share and 3,195 mobile complaints, Optus collected about 103 complaints per percent of market share.

Taking market share into account to level the playing field, complaints from Optus customers were 45% higher than those from Telstra customers between January and March this year – a significant blow out considering its smaller user base.

Optus complaints are falling overall

Despite receiving more complaints than any other mobile provider, the silver lining for Optus is that its complaints fell by 17% compared to Q2, with 4,288 Optus mobile complaints made to the Ombudsman between October and December 2022, the period that immediately followed the Optus data hack.

Of the top 10 issues for mobile services, which includes all providers, a massive 57% of complaints were about ‘no or delayed action by provider’ – in other words, poor follow-through when problems have been reported. This was followed by ‘service and equipment fees’, accounting for 33% of complaints.

A notable change occurred with complaints about ‘unauthorised disclosure of personal information’, which held the #3 spot between October and December 2022, but has now fallen out of the top 10 mobile issues down to #17. Mobile-related issues of ‘non-financial loss – privacy’ also fell drastically, from the #8 spot in Q2 right down to #46 in Q3.

The report noted that mobile continues to be the most complained-about service type across the board, accounting for 47.5% of all complaints made to the Ombudsman between January and March 2023. Complaints about internet services were significantly less at 32%, and 14% of complaints were about multiple services from the same provider, such as mobile and internet.

Ombudsman wants better customer service

The TIO quarterly report is a snapshot and it only provides real-world figures for the biggest offenders, so there’s no clear single winner for least complaints. What is clear, however, is that for most providers, there’s room for improvement when it comes to customer service. The Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said that while mobile service complaints declined this quarter, their high proportion is still a concern.

“I encourage the telcos to keep working on their customer service to ensure that these problems get resolved before people need help from my office,” she said.

While the report doesn’t give us insight into which mobile providers could be better choices, sites such as Product Review might assist in your search. Typically, it’s the smaller telcos, such as Moose Mobile, Felix and Mate, which rate more highly on the site, and customer support is often quoted as a benefit.

These smaller telcos are known as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), and they don’t directly own the cellular networks they use to provide mobile services to their customers. They instead resell access to the Telstra, Optus or Vodafone networks, and they often do so at a cheaper price than the big three.

You can compare prices of some of the major MVNOs in the widget below, or read our guide to the best SIM-only plans in Australia for specific recommendations.

Jasmine Gearie
Ecommerce Editor

Jasmine Gearie is an Ecommerce Editor at TechRadar Australia, with a primary focus on helping readers cut through the jargon to find the best mobile and internet plans for their needs. She crunches the numbers to maintain dedicated guides to the latest phones, NBN and broadband plans of all types, and covers the important telco industry news. She also hunts down tech deals on laptops, phones, gaming consoles and more, so readers know where to buy the products they want for the cheapest prices.