ACCC issues NBN ‘game changers’

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has handed down preliminary advice to broadband companies for fairer promotion of NBN speeds and services.

“A major problem we have identified for consumers in this market is the credibility gap between what consumers are told they’re getting and what they actually get,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims in his address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia Western Australia (CEDA WA).

Mr Sims announced three strategies to ensure NBN customers get the service they’re expecting. These include:

  • setting up a broadband monitoring program
  • providing updated guidance to industry about truth in advertising and assisting their customers make properly informed purchasing decisions
  • investigating and acting on misleading conduct around broadband speeds, including practices that fail to meet the consumer guarantees provided under Australian Consumer Law.

“Combined, these three strategies will be game changers,” said Mr Sims.

The Chairman also believes that the publicity surrounding NBN failures is already encouraging providers to lift their game.

The monitoring scheme will help to gauge whether companies are providing the service they are advertising and will highlight any underperformance. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) not buying sufficient capacity will also be scrutinised and, to help improve services, independent performance reviews will be given to them.

The ACCC also hopes to begin publishing speed and performance data later this year.

The six principles that retailers should follow when advertising broadband speeds are:

  • consumers should be given accurate information about typical speeds that they can expect to receive during busy periods
  • theoretical speeds taken from technical specifications should not be advertised unless the typical busy period speeds are also included
  • information about the performance of promoted applications of the service should be accurate
  • any factors known to affect service performance should be disclosed
  • performance information should be presented in a manner that is easily comparable by consumers
  • retail service providers should have systems in place to diagnose and resolve broadband issues.

“We want to see consumers presented with information based on the realistic speeds they can expect to experience during busy evening periods – not just best-case scenarios,” said Mr Sims.

“We have outlined a common set of descriptive labels that reflect the four tiers of speed plans that are commonly sold to consumers. Importantly, these labels will reflect a minimum speed a consumer can typically expect from that service during the busy evening period.”

The labels would be known as basic evening speed, standard evening speed, standard plus evening speed and premium evening speed.

The ACCC will also ensure that providers comply with Australian Consumer Law obligations.

“We are investigating whether retailers are offering or have sold broadband services to consumers at maximum or off-peak speeds they cannot deliver, because we recognise the damaging impact these practices can have on consumers and on an evolving market,” said Mr Sims.

Many Australians are concerned that their forced migration to the NBN will mean they are paying the same for a poorer internet service. Mr Sims hopes that these strategies will allay their fears.

“We believe these three strategies will see dramatically improved advertising practices, better informed consumers and much improved consumer experiences,” he said.

Do you think these strategies are enough to ensure a quality product? Or do they merely make the NBN’s failings more transparent? Are you worried that you’ll get a worse internet service than you have currently?

Read more at www.accc.gov.au

Related articles:
NBN cost blowout
NBN scam targeting older Australians
NBN rollout enters metro phase

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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