28 Sep 2016

Spark and Vodafone top consumer complaints

7:58 am on 28 September 2016

The Commerce Commission last year received more complaints about telco companies than any other business.

mobile phone

The number of complaints about telecommunications companies have increased. Photo: public domain

The Commission has released its report into the 5073 complaints it received under the Fair Trading Act last year which showed Spark and Vodafone taking the top spots.

Complaints about telecommunications providers went up from 380 in 2014 to 459 last year.

They included people being annoyed about pricing, inaccurate invoicing, and difficulties transferring between providers.

In 2015 there were 140 complaints about Spark and 133 concerning Vodafone.

Complaints also flooded in about airlines, car sellers and domestic appliance traders.

The commission's principal counsel consumer, Ben Hamlin, said 21 traders generated 25 percent of the complaints, including sellers using the TradeMe website, Harvey Norman stores, Air New Zealand, Foodstuffs, Wilson Parking and Progressive Enterprises.

"More than a third of the complaints the commission received were telecommunication providers, domestic appliance sales and that includes electronics such as phones, cars, airlines, online retailing, electricity retailing and supermarkets.

Online trading was responsible for about a third of complaints, and that was likely to rise as the world becomes more digitised, Mr Hamlin said.

"Increasingly traditional retailers or service providers are offering their services online it's only natural that you would see some increase in online complaints."

Commerce Commission principal counsel consumer, Ben Hamlin.

Ben Hamlin said complaints about online trading were likely to rise in the future. Photo: Supplied

There were 304 complaints to the Commission about car sellers, a 70 percent increase on 2013, driven by concerns about quality, warranties and guarantees.

Federation of Family Budgeting Services head Raewyn Fox said their clients were often ripped off when buying cars.

"Particularly in the condition of the car, and that the car's been serviced and checked by the AA or whatever and is in perfect condition and then two weeks later the motor blows up and they find they have got no comeback on that.

"That's a very common story for us to hear."

Electricity retailers were the subject of 126 complaints for perceived issues with contracts and billing inaccuracies.

Grey Power national president Tom O'Connor said members struggled to switch to the organisation's own electricity company.

"It's probably the biggest issue that people have had with us when they've switched over to Grey Power Electricity is that some of the contracts are draconian, but the early termination penalty clause is profiteering at its worst.

"Power companies make it very difficult for people to switch suppliers."

The Commerce Commission said it was pleasing there had been a drop in complaints about mobile shops run from trucks since it began prosecutions against offenders.

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