Complaints about the NBN more than doubled for the 2017 financial year, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
The dispute handling authority received 27,195 complaints about NBN services in the year ending June 30, 2017 – up 159.3% from the previous year’s 10,487 – according to its annual report released this week.
While the big spike in cases is partly attributable to the national network’s accelerated rollout in the past year, the NBN did acknowledge that it needed to “maintain the balance” between fast deployment and “minimising these problems”.
“We acknowledge that the increase in complaints to the TIO about services delivered over the NBN access network in the 2016/17 financial year is regrettable,” the company stated.
“We are working with retail service providers and industry as a priority to improve these figures and the overall experience for consumers.”
When broken down by issue, delays to new connections was the biggest complaint made to the Ombudsman about the NBN, showing up in just over 7,000 cases. Completely unusable internet and landline services were the next most popular themes, while slow data speed attracted close to 4,000 complaints.
The NBN stated that no infrastructure project at such a large scale had ever been “problem-free”.
“With a workforce of close to 30,000 people digging trenches, hauling cable, climbing poles and going into people’s yards and homes, there are inevitably going to be some issues. This is especially the case given approximately 9 out of every 10 Australian premises will be impacted by this industry-wide transformation.”
The TIO report did not indicate how many cases were directed to retailers and how many grievances went directly to the NBN, which is a wholesaler.
Grievances about the NBN were counted separately by the TIO for the first time in 2013/14.
Australians now care more about Netflix than phoning mum
The latest TIO annual report has, for the first time in history, seen complaints about internet connections outnumber grievances about mobile phones or landline services.
Overall, the TIO received 158,016 complaints over the 2017 financial year, which was up 41.1% from the previous year. Reflecting the changing priorities among Australians, this year was the first time that internet services was the most popular theme of complaints, showing up in 40.4% of the cases.
“For the first time, complaints about internet services are now higher than complaints about mobile phones,” said ombudsman Judi Jones.
“The picture the complaints show is we are frustrated when we cannot rely on technology to stay connected, to be informed, and to do business. Sharing high quality videos immediately, holding an online meeting or watching Netflix on the way home, is now the norm and part of our daily routine.”
Most-complained about telcos
Among the telcos, the big three of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone unsurprisingly received attracted the most number of complaints, but little-known Southern Phone saw the biggest increase – almost quadrupling the number of cases compared to the previous year.