Telcos could be slapped with fines of up to $10 million if they let down customers migrating to the NBN under rules the communications watchdog released this week.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) rules require telcos “to help consumers get the information they need to make informed choices, have service options if issues arise and address consumer complaints effectively and in a timely manner’’.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said telecommunications companies were “on notice” that they needed to fully understand the new rules and comply with them immediately.
The authority said it was determined to stamp out the “buck passing” across the NBN service supply chain that up until now has left many customers stranded without an internet connection or other unresolved disputes.
The authority has begun monitoring and in some cases investigating how telcos are carrying out their NBN connections offering in relation to the new rules. From 21 September 2018, compliance with the rules will be mandatory. Among the rules are stipulations that the customer:
- have confidence that their NBN connection can deliver the maximum speed specified in their plan
- will not have their old services switched off before their new NBN services are working
- have remedies available if their new NBN service is not working at the time of connection
- have complaints addressed effectively without “buck-passing” across the NBN service supply chain.
The NBN rollout is scheduled to be completed in 2020 with all customers connected by 2022.
ACMA will enforce the regulations where breaches are found and will be able to begin court proceedings seeking remedies such as injunctions and civil penalties of up to $10 million.
A report released by ACMA this week – NBN consumer experience: Households and businesses – the end-to-end journey – revealed that 34 per cent of households experienced a period without a home phone and/or internet service during the NBN connection process.
Based on surveys late last year of 1881 households connected to the NBN, the report also found that seven in 10 consumers experienced at least one type of issue or fault after connection. The most frequently mentioned issue or fault was drop-outs (49 per cent). Around one-third of households experienced speed issues and service outages.
Other findings on the experiences of households after they had been connected to the NBN included:
- after migration, 41 per cent of households rated their service as better than before their NBN connection
- 31 per cent rated the service the same as before, leaving around 28 per cent claiming their service was worse
- 52 per cent of people with medical devices and alarms connected to the internet were not aware that they needed to check their device’s compatibility with the NBN
- 42 per cent conducted speed tests to check download times and 52 per cent were satisfied with their speed
- satisfaction was highest (62 per cent) for those on plans with the fastest speed (100 Mbps speed tier); it was lowest (44 per cent) for those on a 50 Mbps speed tier
- satisfaction for those on a 12 Mbps speed tier was 47 per cent and for those on a 25 Mbps plan it was 55 per cent
- 31 per cent of consumers had made a complaint to their service provider after connecting and half of these needed to complain three times before their problem was resolved
- satisfaction was highest for complaints resolved when the problem was addressed within three working days
- 11 per cent of individuals said an NBN technician had not shown up for an appointment with seven per cent claiming four or more appointments had been missed.
ACMA said that at the time it collected the data for its report, fewer than half (49 per cent) of households considered their issue had been solved.
“The research provides ‘point-in-time’ insights that informed the ACMA’s new telco rules put in place over the last six months,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
If you have been connected to the NBN, how would you rate your experience? What tips do you have for those yet to be hooked in?