The NZ Telecommunications Forum (TCF) is challenging suggestions customer complaints about local telco operators are extremely high.
The TCF released its 2018 Annual Report today, saying communications costs for consumers continue to fall, even as demand for services rises exponentially.
However, it is the Forum's take on complaints that is likely to draw the most attention, given the Commerce Commission has made retail telco services one of its priority focus areas for 2019.
The report highlights international complaints data showing that at an industry level the number of complaints and enquiries per 10,000 connections that the New Zealand Telecommunications Dispute Resolution (TDR) scheme "compares extremely favourably to other jurisdictions, and similar utility industries in New Zealand".
“We’re pleased the industry compares favourably to the UK, Australia and other industries," said TCF CEO Geoff Thorn. "We also support increased transparency in the industry and encourage proper analysis into industry complaints and enquiries."
Reports earlier this month showed Vodafone was the second on a league table of complaints to the Commerce Commission while Spark was third and Two Degrees fifth.
"Having a better understanding of where the industry can make improvements will contribute to a better consumer experience with telecommunications providers," Thorn added.
Thorn said ten years ago, the costs of telecommunications services were double the costs of some other utilities such as electricity.
“Many of our modern services such as high-speed internet and mobile broadband were in their infancy," he said.
"As we have better infrastructure in place, the cost of delivering those services has decreased – and those savings are passed on to the consumer.”
Data in the report shows the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of telecommunications services dropped five per cent between the first quarter 2017 and the same quarter in 2018, and is now lower than all other utilities, including electricity, gas and rates.
Internationally, the cost of New Zealand’s broadband plans are 5-15 per cent below OECD average; and the country's mobile calling plans are 27- 47 per cent cheaper, Thorn said.
“Competition in communications services has meant consumers are getting a great deal from their telco providers." he added.
Thorn said a new regulatory regime to be implemented later in the year when the Telecommunications Act is amended will bring an increased focus on consumer matters and oversight of the industry by the Commerce Commission.
"We’ve been busy developing new codes which will establish customer service standards, such as the Fibre Installation Code which establishes industry-wide processes to improve consumer experience with fibre installs," he said.
The Scam Calling Prevention Code establishes information sharing processes to help identify and prevent scam calls while the Disconnection Code helps to protect consumer rights, and the Vulnerable End Users Code ensures consumers with a dependency on communications services are prioritised.
"Updates to the International Mobile Roaming Code give consumers greater visibility of potential costs when roaming overseas," Thorn said.