The Australian Communications and Media Authority today announced that it is forging ahead with the introduction of new complaints-handling rules for telcos that offer services over the National Broadband Network.
The communications regulator has published new data that shows a significant portion of NBN-connected households are unhappy with how their complaints have been handled.
The government in August tasked the ACMA with gathering data about the end user experience on the new network. In December the ACMA released results from the project and foreshadowed the introduction of new rules for telcos that sell NBN services. The data released late last year was gathered through statutory notices issued to 16 retail service providers (RSPs), four wholesalers and NBN.
The new ACMA research report is based on interviews with 1881 households with NBN connections (the ACMA said the results have been weighted to represent households connected in the last 12 months in the areas that were surveyed).
The report reveals that among households that made an NBN-related complaint and had it resolved, almost a quarter were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with how it was handled.
Among those households, the time it took to fix a problem or take action was the number one complaint, followed by poor communication, nobody taking responsibility for fixing a problem, or suffering from a recurring or ongoing problem.
Statistics released by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have revealed significant growth in NBN-related complaints referred to it by households and small businesses.
The ACMA has released a discussion paper as part of its consultation on the proposed rules.
Under the proposals detailed today, telcos will have a range of additional obligations to speedily deal with complaints and advise customers of any delays and options to escalate complaints.
“The aim of the draft Standard is for complaints-handling rules, including time frames for response and resolution, to be better enforced,” the paper states.
“Additionally, retail CSPs [carriage service providers] and the TIO should be able to obtain reasonable assistance from upstream providers such as wholesalers, other intermediaries and NBN Co to resolve customer complaints.
“Telco customers deserve to have their complaints dealt with quickly and effectively,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said. “As industry co-regulation is proving ineffective in this area, we will put in place rules so that the ACMA can act more quickly to deal with non-compliance.”
The discussion paper also includes proposed record-keeping rules (RKRs) that the ACMA hopes will deliver more transparency over NBN complaint handling. The ACMA is planning to release the data gathered under the rules on a quarterly basis.
“It is our intention to publish the data gathered via the RKRs on a quarterly basis, enabling consumers to make informed choices about providers, encourage better complaints-handling by providers, and enable us to more effectively monitor complaint trends and levels,” the discussion paper states.
“We have not yet reached a view about what form that publication might take and will consult with stakeholders about how that data might best be presented before we publish our first report of RKR data.”
The ACMA plans to launch public consultations in the coming weeks on the other NBN-related rules it is proposing.
The ACMA is accepting submissions about the proposed complaints-handling and record-keeping rules rules until 16 April. The rules are expected to come into force later this year. The discussion paper is available online.