The results are in: the top 10 ISPs in Australia. But they won't exactly be popping champagne corks.
The 2007-08 report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) puts the industry's two biggest ISPs at the top of the list — Telstra BigPond, with 19,364 complaints, followed by Optus with 9,063. Given each of them has millions of customers, those complaint stats aren't entirely surprising.
A much smaller ISP, Dodo, with only 'tens of thousands' of customers (according to its website) is the third most complained about ISP, with 6,683 complaints. We've covered Dodo's massive complaint volumes before:
However, it's worth noting that Dodo's stats, while still very high, are significantly reduced on last year's figures. 6,683 internet-related complaints for the year is very low compared to the 15,937 complaints it received the year previously.
AAPT follows with 3,206 complaints, Virgin Mobile with 2,625, Soul Communications with 2,513, Blitz Telecom with 2,266, TPG Internet with 2,089, Primux with 2,081 and iiNet with 1,825.
The TIO charges ISPs for each complaint received, with fees ranging from $31 to $2915 depending on the difficulty of the complaint resolution. And no, there's no bulk discount, meaning the more complaints an ISP receives, the more it gets billed by the TIO each year.
According to the TIO's published statistics, it would have billed Telstra around $604,000, Optus Broadband $156,000 and Dodo $285,000 in complaint resolution fees for internet-related issues.
The CEO of one well-known ISP, speaking to APC on condition of anonymity, said it was well known within the industry that some telcos find it cheaper to pay complaint penalties to the TIO than to fund better customer service.
The bad news for consumers is that resolving complaints is a lengthy process. The TIO doesn’t release times for 'level 1' complaints, where a consumer complains, the TIO writes to the ISP and no further action is taken. However, any complaint that reaches a level 2 status takes an average of nearly three months to be sorted out. Pray that your complaint doesn't get taken all the way to level 4 — they take six months to sort out, on average.