The head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission expects to launch court action against Internet service providers over broadband speeds before the end of the year.
“We are investigating whether retailers are offering or have sold broadband services to consumers at maximum or off-peak speeds they cannot deliver, because we recognise the damaging impact these practices can have on consumers and on an evolving market,” ACCC chairperson Rod Sims told the CommsDay Unwired Revolution conference this morning.
Sims said that he believes that the consumer watchdog’s Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting program, its guidance on advertising speed claims and its associated enforcement work will be “game changes”.
The $7 million broadband monitoring program is based on a 2015 pilot the ACCC ran in Melbourne, and the ACCC expects it to be up and running before the end of 2017.
In May, the ACCC begun the process of seeking a testing partner for the program, which will largely focused on speeds delivered over the National Broadband Network.
“Importantly, the broadband monitoring program will ... draw out whether issues are being caused by the performance of the NBN, or by ISPs not buying sufficient capacity,” Sims said.
“We will begin publishing speed and performance data later this year as large numbers of consumers move to the NBN,” the ACCC chairperson added. The organisation last month began seeking volunteer households to participate in the program.
The ACCC in February unveiled a series of principles it says ISPs should follow in order to avoid misleading consumers when making claims about broadband performance.
“In coming weeks the ACCC will provide industry guidance as to what we – and consumers – can and should expect,” Sims said today.
“After the guidance has been released we will be taking a very close look at the advertising in the market.”
The ACCC will conduct compliance sweep to assess whether advertising practices have improved. “Importantly, what we want to see is retailers moving away from unhelpful and easily misconstrued claims like ‘up to’, ‘boost’ and ‘superfast’, and from advertising and/or providing information about theoretical maximum speeds that are based on wholesale inputs,” Sims said.
Earlier this year, Telstra revealed that a small number of its customers with NBN services were on broadband plans with maximum speeds that were not achievable.