Optus is refunding NBN customers for promised speeds they can't possibly get

Optus behind the scenes: Usain Bolt ad. (Source: supplied)

Optus will refund customers over NBN connections that can’t deliver the speeds promised in the packages.

Australia’s second biggest telco is acting more than three months after Telstra announced it would refund 8000 NBN customers for the same reason.

Optus is now investigating how many people would be eligible for compensation, which involves the Turnbull government’s controversial choice to use fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) as the primary technology for NBN services.

The company says it is a problem faced by all retailers.

“Optus is undertaking a similar process [to Telstra] in respect of those customers where it has been confirmed that the underlying NBN service cannot deliver the speed they signed up for,” an Optus spokesperson said.

“This is an underlying NBN copper access issue specifically for fibre-to-the-node and fibre-to-the-basement services and affects all RSPs [retail service providers].”

Telstra had just under 800,000 NBN customers at the end of last year, with its refund announcement in May covering 1% oversold on speed promises.

Telstra said in May that it would monitor new customers with speed boost packages for their first month to ensure they were getting what they paid for – and would refund those who physically can’t receive promised speeds. Optus did not say whether it would do the same.

With the NBN rollout gathering pace as it moves into metropolitan areas, the end performance people experience in homes and businesses has been a contentious issue.

Retailers such as Telstra theoretically must purchase enough wholesale capacity from the NBN to provide the speeds customers were promised — but there is no mechanism to enforce this responsibility. There are also physical constraints with FTTN, which the Coalition government brought in as a cheaper alternative to Labor’s original fibre-to-the-premises.

NBN chief executive Bill Morrow said last week the top five retailers’ customer satisfaction ratings ranged from 5.9 to 7 out of 10, indicating they had influence over what the end user experienced.

“Overall satisfaction of [each retailer’s] broadband experience can look quite different, considering it’s tapping into the same NBN access network, using the same NBN processes, and using the same NBN systems,” he said.

The ACCC announced earlier this year that it would start tracking speeds delivered by each retailer, in order put more pressure on them to do the right thing by consumers.

The NBN now covers 5.7 million premises, with the non-metropolitan rollout two-thirds complete and metro deployment one-third done.

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