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Consumers happier with telcos

Oftel says complaints are down, but there is still work to be done

The latest research from Oftel shows that we are happier with the service we are receiving from telcos. The watchdog's latest consumer complaints data, published yesterday, shows that grumbles about mobile and internet operators have fallen slightly over the period from 1 October 03 to 31 March 03.

The data, which analyses the 100,000 gripes received by Oftel's Consumer Representation Section (CRS) each year, showed that the main areas of discontent were from people who felt ignored by operators, or were not kept informed about changes to services.

As might be expected, the majority (28,300) of the approximately 50,000 complaints received by the CRS were about fixed-line telephone services — slightly up on the last period. The mobile market is the next biggest offender with 18,000 complaints — again, a rise on previous numbers. The internet market was third on the list, and can pat itself on the back for receiving less criticism, with figures down from 6,800 to 5,232.

This upturn could in part be put down to improved BT Openworld's customer relations — an area in which the company admits it has suffered in the past. Pierre Danon, CEO of BT Retail, said in a recent press conference that "18 months ago we had poor customer satisfaction", and that since then one of its key strategies had been to redress the balance.

It appears this strategy is working, as Oftel says complaints to the CRS are down to one in 1,000 BT Openworld customers, although this is still the highest figure for all the internet operators where the average is 0.3 in 1,000. Other companies shown to have incurred less disapproval were OneTel and Pipex, while AOL, Demon and NTL found their customer services postbags were fuller than the last period, although all remain at or below the average level of complaints.

While overall the figures are relatively encouraging, David Edmonds, director general of telecommunications, said: "I would like to see companies doing more towards improving their customer relations." He suggests the best methods to achieve this would be "being accessible, and having staff who are polite and keen to assist in dealing with any complaints or enquiries".

Oftel's Consumer Representation Service can be contacted on 0845 714 5000 or via email on [email protected].


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