The National Broadband Network Co will pay telecommunications companies $25 for each missed appointment and late connection as part of an agreement with the competition regulator, which could see Australians receiving refunds from their retailers when their connections go awry.
The NBN Co will have to pay a further $25 to retail service providers for every single missed activation (where someone’s connection didn’t happen) and lengthy fault repairs as part of a new court-enforceable undertaking. These payments are automatic, meaning telcos do not have to claim to achieve the payment, and increase the expected standards the network has to meet before paying a rebate from 90 per cent to 100 per cent.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) began an inquiry into NBN wholesale service standard delivery late last year after skyrocketing complaints in May 2017 were recorded by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and as the network reaches its crucial last few years of rollout.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims expects retailers who obtain rebates will pass along assistance and potentially refund customers whose services have been affected.
“Under the undertaking given to the ACCC, NBN Co will require the [providers] to continue to take reasonable steps to ensure customers receive a benefit from the improved rebates the service providers will receive from NBN Co,” Mr Sims said.
“This could mean customers could receive rebates … or other benefits, such as providing a substitute service while a fault is being fixed,” he said.
The NBN Co will increase its reporting of service levels, including fixed wireless, to let telcos know about performance sooner, with congestion information on fixed wireless to be added to a monthly-published dashboard.
The inquiry is still ongoing, with an additional consultation paper and further industry discussions in the pipeline with an expected end to the ACCC’s investigation in December.
“Greater transparency of the performance of NBN Co’s fixed wireless network will encourage it to continue to prioritise the upgrade of the network to increase capacity, and to improve customer experience.
“Such transparency will allow industry and the public to assess how well NBN Co is responding to the congestion issues on the fixed wireless network,” Mr Sims said.
Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield described it as a “win for consumers” in a statement, noting it “follows extensive work by the government to increase consumer protections and enhance user experience”. So far, NBN Co data shows 94 per cent of premises are connected within the provided time frames and 93 per cent have equipment installed correctly.
The wholesale agreements the NBN Co has with the service providers will be updated within the next three months.
Telecomminications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones will tell telco industry members at the ACCANect 2018 conference on Thursday that she has seen an improvement in telco complaints in the last few months, despite an overall increase in recent years based on factors like a growing range of products and services, changes in technology and the NBN rollout.
There was a “sharp increase” in complaints in 2016, with about a quarter about the NBN coinciding with the accelerated rollout,” she said.
Ms Jones said measures had been introduced to manage customers’ outcomes and reduce complaints and while it was too early to assess the full impact, “complaints have slowed in the second half of the 2018 financial year”.
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