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Telco complaints ‘turning the corner’: TIO

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While complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) were up marginally for the year, they began dropping in the final quarter including across the National Broadband Network (NBN), the 2018 annual report has revealed.

Complaints increased by 6.2 percent year on year, but dropped by 17.8 percent quarter on quarter in Q4.

“I am pleased to report that the number of complaints about telecommunications services in Australia appear to be turning the corner, with complaints trending down in the latter part of the year,” Ombudsman Judi Jones said on Wednesday.

The decrease in complaints follows government action after NBN complaints previously tripled, Jones added, pointing to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s speed monitoring reports and repercussions for retailers not delivering on their speed promises, with Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, Internode, Dodo, iPrimus, and Commander all having been forced to compensate tens of thousands of customers.

The TIO also attributed the complaints drop to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield’s roundtable with NBN and retailers; the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)’s new migration rules; NBN’s wholesale pricing changes; and the TIO’s own complaints-handling changes.

“I have consistently said the increase in complaints to my office over the last two years has not solely been driven by the rollout of the National Broadband Network,” Jones added.

“Complaints had increased in all service types, and it is pleasing to see complaints have started to decline across the board. Our new Responsive Complaints Service (commencing on 1 July 2018) is more flexible, is designed to get to the heart of each complaint more quickly, and focuses on resolution.”

For the year to June 30, the TIO received 167,831 complaints in total, with 146,958 from consumers and 20,433 from small business.

Mobile phone services made up 51,328 complaints; multiple services accounted for 49,875 complaints; internet services caused 46,703 complaints; landline phone services 18,736 complaints; and property 1,189 complaints.

For complaint types, customer service made up the most complaints, at 40 percent overall, followed by payment for a service at 36 percent; service delivery at 31 percent; establishing a service at 20.5 percent; and property at 1 percent.

Of all complaints about service quality, 47 percent were about services being delivered over the NBN, at 27,008 complaints; and of all connection and changing provider complaints, 58 percent were about NBN services, at 14,589.

However, these both dropped during the second half of the financial year despite more premises being activated, the TIO said.

Connection or changing provider complaints numbered 8,711 in July to December 2017, or 9.2 per thousand premises added to the NBN, and numbered 5,878 or nine per thousand premises added to the NBN for January to June 2018.

Service quality complaints dropped from 14,000 or 4.1 per thousand premises on the network from July to December 2017 down to 13,008 or 3.2 per thousand premises on the network from January to June 2018.

MyRepublic saw the steepest rise in complaints, up 102 percent from last year to 1,816 complaints to the Ombudsman during FY18. It was followed by Optus including Virgin Mobile, which saw complaints jump by 35 percent to 40,665; and Telstra, up by 7.7 percent during the year for a total of 82,528 complaints.

Southern Phone experienced the biggest decrease in complaints, down 28 percent to 1,484, followed by iiNet, which was down 24 percent to 7,719; TPG, down 11 percent to 6,248; Vodafone Australia, down 8.7 percent to 9,752; M2 Commander, down 8.2 percent to 1,565; and Dodo, down 5.7 percent to 3,120 complaints to the Ombudsman during FY18.

Primus remained relatively stagnant, up 0.1 percent to 1,918 complaints for the financial year.

Across the states, New South Wales clocked the most complaints, up 5 percent from last year to 52,989 complaints; Victoria was up 9 percent to 47,620 complaints; Queensland was up 13 percent to 32,820 complaints; Western Australia was up 11 percent to 15,075 complaints; South Australia was up 1 percent to 12,667 complaints; Tasmania was up 0.7 percent to 2,986 complaints; the Australian Capital Territory was down 5.6 percent to 2,466 complaints; and the Northern Territory was down 0.1 percent to 1,042 complaints.

Overall, the TIO commenced 17,236 conciliations during the year, with 88 percent of online complaints processed the same day; 52 possible systemic issues notified to providers; and 30 systemic matters resulting in the retailer agreeing to or making changes to their systems and processes.

While acknowledging the slight improvement in Q4, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said it is “frustrated” with the TIO complaints increase.

“Although the last quarter has shown improvement, this is the third year in a row that the complaint numbers have climbed,” ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said.

“It is time to draw a line in the sand — consumers deserve better from their telco providers.”

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Toyota GR010 Hybrid racer rumored to spawn a street version

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Toyota has a new racing car for the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship. The vehicle is called the GR010 Hybrid and what’s more exciting than a new racing car is that reports claim a street-legal version will launch in the near future. The vehicle seen below is the 2021 GR010 Hybrid racing car, but it’s unclear what exactly the street-legal version might look like.

The racing car was built to meet the WEC series regulations, which only allow a single configuration. To perform at its peak on both low and high downforce tracks, the vehicle has an adjustable rear wing. Toyota does warn that the GR010 Hybrid will be slower than the TS050 racing car that it replaces.

The reason it will be slower has to do with regulations for the racing series. Toyota was forced to make the GR010 357 pounds heavier and 32 percent less powerful than the TS050 it’s replacing. The GR010 Hybrid is also nearly 10-inches longer, 4-inches higher, and 4-inches wider than its predecessor.

Toyota expects it will be about ten seconds slower at Le Mans than the TS050. Ten seconds is an eternity on a race track. Development took 18 months, and the car uses a gas-electric powertrain. The gas engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 670 horsepower sent to the rear wheels. The front wheels get 268 horsepower from an electric motor-generator.

The total output is 938 horsepower. However, for WEC racing, total power is limited to 670 horsepower. We hope to learn more details about the street version of the car soon. The first race for the racing version will happen on March 19 at Sebring. Le Mas will occur on June 12, and the car will participate in other events during the season.

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Some Ford Mustang Mach-E deliveries have been delayed

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Ford has officially confirmed that it is delaying the delivery of hundreds of Mach-E electric vehicles to perform additional quality checks. A very limited number of Mach-E electric vehicles were delivered late last year. With Ford saying it was delaying deliveries to perform additional quality checks after delivering those vehicles last year, it’s easy to wonder if the owners of those vehicles discovered some issues.

Ford says that it is performing additional quality checks on several hundred Mach-E models built before dealer shipments started last month. The automaker says it wants to ensure the EV’s meet the quality customers expect and deserve. Ford took a beating on the new Ford Explorer’s launch when the vehicle launched with some significant issues that delayed deliveries.

Ford doesn’t want vehicles with issues to get into the hands of buyers again. Ford hasn’t confirmed an issue with the Mach-E, but it would seem odd to stop deliveries and conduct additional quality checks if there wasn’t some sort of suspicion of a problem with the quality of the vehicles.

It may simply be that Ford wants its new electric vehicle to be perfect. The delay could be something as small as checking body panels to be sure they’re appropriately aligned. There were some rumors that the EV didn’t charge as fast as expected, but it’s unclear if the checks have anything to do with the charging system.

We were able to spend some quality time hands-on driving the 2021 Mach-E last month. Anyone wanting more details on Ford’s new electric vehicle should check out our hands-on. Ford has a lot riding on this vehicle, and if it wants to compete with Tesla and other big names in the automotive market, it needs to get things right. Delays are certainly better than delivering vehicles that don’t meet expectations.

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2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer Review – A very rational compact crossover

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Times are tough if you’re in the market for a brand new all-wheel drive crossover on a severe budget, but the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer thinks it has the answer. Cheapest model in Chevy’s SUV line-up, its sticker price isn’t quite that attention-grabbing $19k by the time you add AWD, but even then it still won’t break the bank – just as long as you’re willing to put up with the Trailblazer’s compromises to get there.

As you’d expect, the Trailblazer owes many of its styling cues to the larger Blazer SUV. The proportions look more muscular and intentional than the overall dimensions would suggest, particularly the squinting headlamps atop a gaping lower front grille. The Midnight Blue Metallic of my test car wasn’t the most flattering shade, mind: brighter colors help emphasize the contrast sections, like the chrome and the chunky cladding.

In displacement-obsessed America, the Trailblazer’s 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine is a kooky outlier: it’s easy to forget that, over in Europe and Asia, squeezing more out of thriftier sippings of gas has been the status-quo for many years now. Chevy’s three-pot gets you 155 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, but the biggest surprise is that it’s actually the larger of the two engines the Trailblazer can be had with.

Standard is an even smaller 1.2-liter turbo, coaxing 137 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque from its three cylinders. It uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT), unlike the 1.3-liter with its 9-speed automatic. If you want all-wheel drive rather than power to the front wheels alone, you’ll need to cough up the extra for the bigger engine.

The 2021 Trailblazer FWD L starts at just $19,000 (plus $995 destination), making it less than half the average selling price of a new car in America right now. You’ll pay $3,100 more for the Trailblazer AWD LS 1.3L, the first trim offering the punchier engine and all-wheel drive. My review car was the positively-plush (in comparison) Trailblazer AWD LT, at $28,180 with options and destination.

Your money gets you 17-inch high-gloss black alloy wheels, front fog lamps and LED daytime running lights, power-adjusted side mirrors, electric windows, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, OnStar 4G LTE WiFi, a 7-inch infotainment system with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and both USB Type-A and Type-C ports plus an aux-in. Safety tech includes lane-keep assistance, forward collision alerts, tire pressure monitoring, and automatic emergency and front pedestrian braking.

The $620 Adaptive Cruise Control package added the smarter cruise, leather wrapping for the shifter and steering wheel, a 4.2-inch color display sandwiched between the analog gauges for the driver, and a rear center armrest. Another $620 added the Convenience package, with single-zone automatic air conditioning, auto dimming for the rearview mirror, a 120V power outlet, SiriusXM, an 8-inch upgrade for the infotainment touchscreen, and rear USB Type-A and -C charging ports.

Finally, $345 throws in rear parking assistance, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot warnings. There’s no leather option, only a leatherette upgrade from the perfectly satisfactory cloth, and weirdly no wireless charging pad available, strange since Chevy has been ahead of many by embracing wireless smartphone projection. You can even connect two Bluetooth devices simultaneously, which is more than many far more expensive SUVs can manage.

Out on the road, the 1.3-liter engine underwhelms. Acceleration is on the sluggish side, and though urban nippiness is reasonable the Trailblazer starts to feel a little more out of its depth on the highway. Put your foot down to take advantage of a gap in the next lane and there’s a disconcerting absence of grunt as the gearbox hurries to get you back into the power band. On Michigan highways, where a 70 mph limit typically means 80 mph in the slow lane, I held back from openings in faster traffic more often than I would in other small crossovers.

The same reticence appears on more interesting roads, where the Trailblazer fails to bring the fire. Squishy suspension makes some sense when you’re trying to smooth out unruly asphalt – though the short wheelbase and no lack of body roll means rougher sections still make themselves known – but does no favors for enthusiast drivers.

Perhaps, though, that’s asking too much. Economy works in the Trailblazer’s favor, with the 1.3L FWD rated for up to 31 mpg combined by the EPA, and my AWD version for 26 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. My mixed driving hit those numbers with no problems. The cabin design is unmemorable, with swathes of different tone plastic failing to lift what’s a generally dark interior, but it at least feels decently screwed-together and spacious.

25.3 cu-ft of cargo space with the rear seats up expands to 54.4 cu-ft with them down. Honda’s HR-V has more; Nissan’s Kicks has less. What the Chevy gets that neither rival offers is a folding front passenger seat, opening almost the full length of the cabin for hauling longer items. The HR-V and Trailblazer have more legroom in the rear than the Kicks does, too.

I don’t dislike the 2021 Trailblazer, I just struggle to remember it. The idea of a smaller, peppier version of the Blazer isn’t a bad one, and Chevrolet’s styling has some good angles, it’s just that this compact crossover doesn’t really go far enough in any direction to stand out of the crowd. Mazda’s CX-30 is in the same ballpark for price as this LT trim, but looks and drives so much better. The Trailblazer brings more practicality and cargo space to the party, but I know which I’d rather look outside and see parked on my driveway.

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