Retail telcos generated 584 complaints to the Commerce Commission in 2018, slightly lower than the 603 received in the year ended 30 June 2017.
The industry accounted for nine per cent of all Fair Trading Act complaints during the year, the same as in 2017, commission analysis released today said.
Telco retailers continued to generate a higher volume of complaints than other industries, continuing a trend observed since the end of the 2014.
Motor vehicle dealers were in second place with 420 complaints (six per cent of the total) while domestic appliance retailers with 391 complaints took the third spot.
"Consumers tell us that they consider representations about price in some telecommunications retail service provider (TRSP) advertising are misleading," the analysis report stated.
"Some of these complaints relate to TRSPs offering split price deals where the price presented does not apply to the full length of the contract. Other complaints concern TRSPs making potentially misleading comparisons with competitors’ offers in advertising."
However, the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF) responded to the report by calling for more detail "so Kiwis can gain a clearer picture of how different industries perform relative to the size of their customer base".
With approximately 8.2 million telecommunications connections, the number of complaints per customer remains relatively low across the industry, TCF chief executive Geoff Thorn said.
"Using raw complaint numbers does not provide an accurate picture of the improved performance of the industry," he said.
“The TCF welcomes the publication of all data on complaints and enquiries. However, we would like to see any published reports, including the Consumer Issues Report, adjusted by industry size, to give a more accurate and fair view of the industry’s performance.”
ComCom cited a recent survey of 28 countries which found telco retailers were among the top three most complained about industries in 2017.
Consumers in overseas countries complained about issues including accurate billing, closely resembling the complaints reported by New Zealand consumers.
Local consumers reported it can be a challenge to understand and compare the range and complexity of telco service offers in terms of price, quality (for instance, broadband speed) and what is included in, or excluded from, a contract.
Many providers create ‘bundles’ of products and services, which consumers say can be difficult to compare.
These may combine broadband with a home phone and/or mobile; telecommunications products with non-telecommunications products such as electricity; or broadband with power or with music or video streaming subscription services.
"Many consumers report feeling that the claims TRSPs make about the quality or features of their offers may not be easily substantiated," the report added.
"For instance, consumers have explained that they were not sure about a trader’s offer of the ‘best price’ or ‘best deal’ in the market."
Consumers also complain about fees, such as fees for paper invoicing, the processing of credit card payments, and contract termination fees.