Soaring complaints over telecommunications

Bessie Dean
April 18, 2018

Complaints about NBN services look set to easily pass the mark set last financial year, though NBN Co says they represent far fewer problems it has to deal with directly.

The figures released today by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman show that over the 2017 calendar year NBN complaints to the TIO rose by 204 per cent - despite the number of new NBN activations only increasing by 105 per cent over that same period.

Due to the way it has changed its complaints recording process as of July a year ago, the TIO also said it is "not possible to compare complaints at the service type and issue levels with previous reports".

The NBN Co reduced the cost of its 50Mbps speed plan in December to the price of its 25Mbps speed plan - its most popular bundle.

The report found there were 84,914 complaints about internet, mobile and landline services in the same period for both residential dwellings and small businesses, citing charges and fees, unsatisfactory response from providers, poor service quality and having no service at all.

While the complaints by small businesses and the total complaints are down from the first half of 2017, the TIO points out that complaints activity is seasonal, so similar-period comparisons are more appropriate.

Between July 1st and December 31st 2017, the TIO received a notable 22,827 NBN-related complaints, with 14,055 concerning service quality, and 8,757 surrounding connection delays.

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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) was less interested in which party was responsible for the complaint.

NBN Co's chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb has argued that it is less than one per cent of people on the NBN who have lodged complaints, and most of those were related to internet service providers, rather than the NBN itself, stating just five per cent of NBN complaints ending up with NBN Co to resolve.

Ombudsman Judi Jones expressed disappointment that "consumers still seem to be facing the same problems" as in prior years.

She added that a number of initiatives around broadband speeds are "bearing fruit" and that speeds - even during peak hour - are often exceeding advertised speeds, citing the recent ACCC Broadband Speed Monitoring Report. "Customers are continuing to experience poor service, and are unable to get their service provider to satisfactorily resolve issues".

The ACMA's new rules will require line tests on NBN services, reconnecting customers to legacy services where the NBN is unusable, providing minimum information to consumers, and reporting complaints data to the ACMA.

"The results from our latest monthly progress report show we've listened to the community's feedback and are working hard alongside industry to make significant steps to improve customer experience but we know there's more to be done", he said.

"We will continue to work with industry to improve those parts of the customer's end-to-end experience within our control to reduce complaint volumes".

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