Phone companies are again in the doghouse.

The Commerce Commission's annual Consumer Issues report rates the most complained-about industries, and "telecommunications retail service providers" are again at the top of the heap - or should that be bottom.

Collectively, they generated 584 complaints to the commission in the year to June, 9 per cent of the total and more than any other industry.

Retail telcos got the collective wooden spoon since the ComCom started ranking industry complaints in 2015, when they also accounted for around 9 per cent of all gripes.


But Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees are quick to point out that the Commerce Commission did not find many complaints warranted following up, and that many others related to UFB fibre and should more properly have been laid at the feet of wholesale network provider Chorus.

The regulator has not ranked companies against each other this year within industries, perhaps a concession to Spark's complaint that the survey does not adjust for the size of a company's customer base.

2degrees had a mare last year as its customer service software went haywire, but it says problems are now fixed. Spark has just gone through an "agile" restructure that included a lot of automated systems designed to boost customer service, while new Vodafone NZ boss Jason Paris says improvements have been made, but his company still has room to pull its socks up.

The ComCom will be watching their efforts. It named retail telecommunications as one of its special focus areas for the current year. The watchdog recently prosecuted Spark over over-billing and has an action underway against Vodafone for alleged misleading marketing, plus an investigation into limitations on its "unlimited" mobile plan.

Overall, New Zealand companies generated more complaints - 7452, compared to 7270 last year.

Source: Commerce Commission Consumer Issues 2017/2018 Report.
Source: Commerce Commission Consumer Issues 2017/2018 Report.

The Commission has also seen an increase in consumer complaints relating to online ticket resellers, primarily Viagogo (about which it has issued a consumer warning), and motor vehicle dealers.

"Issues relating to motor vehicle sales have increased by 17 per cent year on year. The majority of complaints are about second-hand sales and are spread across a wide range of traders. This sector is one of our 2018/19 priority focus areas that we will be targeting through both enforcement and increased education," Commissioner Anna Rawlings said.

In relation to consumer credit, complaints continue to be received about issues such as irresponsible lending, debt collection and the reasonableness of fees.


"We are continuing to focus on compliance with consumer credit laws and are prioritising the investigation of irresponsible lending practices because of the significant harm it can cause already vulnerable consumers," Ms Rawlings said.

"In the competition area we have also noted a rise in complaints regarding regional ports, primarily relating to the conduct of ports in competitive markets for the supply of services. We are looking into some of the allegations raised and will be maintaining a close watch on this sector over the next year."