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May, 2024

Southern Phone slapped with $244,140 penalty for mishandling customer complaints

Southern Phone Company Limited (Southern Phone), owned by AGL Energy, has been fined $244,140 for inadequate customer complaint handling by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The regulatory watchdog found the company breached telecommunications complaint handling rules on 77 occasions between April and June 2023.

Under the Consumer Complaints Handling Standard, telcos are required to meet minimum standards and timeframes when managing complaints. Southern Phone failed to notify the customer of an expected delay or implement a resolution within the required ten working days for non-urgent complaints on 38 occasions. The ACMA also found Southern Phone failed to keep adequate complaint handling records on 39 occasions.

“Efficient handling of customer complaints needs to be treated as a high priority for telcos. Southern Phone lacked the proper processes to manage these complaints and it needs to do better,” said ACMA member and consumer lead, Samantha Yorke. “Experiencing issues with your phone and internet can be frustrating, but to then have a complaint mismanaged by your service provider just exacerbates the problem.”

In addition to the financial penalty, Southern Phone has entered into a court-enforceable undertaking committing to an independent review of its compliance with complaint handling rules and to make improvements where needed.

The ACMA initiated its investigation following a review of Southern Phone’s complaints-handling performance. Telcos that supply more than 30,000 services must report to the ACMA on their complaint handling on a quarterly basis.

“Telcos need make a concerted effort to address the unacceptable level of complaints and the way they are being handled,” Yorke concluded.