NBN related-complaints to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission rose “significantly” during 2016-17, the watchdog has revealed.
The ACCC’s annual report on competition and price changes in the telecommunications sector revealed that overall it recorded a 58 per cent increase in communications-related complaints compared to the previous year.
The report noted that the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman also witnessed a significant increase in complaints over the period.
In 2016-17, the TIO received more than 158,000 complaints about landline, mobile and internet services — a greater than 41 per cent increase on the previous year.
NBN-related complaints to the TIO grew by 159 per cent.
“The number of NBN complaints, however, represented a small proportion of new premises activated, with 6.7 fault complaints and 8.3 connection complaints per 1000 premises activated,” the ACCC report noted.
“However, the significant ramp up in NBN activations during the year has given prominence to consumer issues in relation to migration and NBN performance.”
“Reflecting trends reported by the TIO, complaints to the ACCC regarding the NBN increased significantly during the year,” the ACCC said.
“However, all of the key fixed and mobile service providers saw significant increases in complaints, ranging from 40 per cent for Telstra to 124 per cent for iiNet.”
The ACCC said that it received close to 4400 consumer complaints and enquires about the communications industry, representing a 58 per cent increase on 2015-16. Most complaints related to allegations of misleading or deceptive conduct — 1831 complaints — followed by complaints about guarantees as to acceptable quality (1166 complaints). Those figures represent a greater than 100 per cent and almost 59 per cent increase on 2015-16, respectively.
The ACCC didn’t release specific figures for NBN-related complaints.
“Considering this data alongside the TIO complaints data suggests that internet services and specifically NBN services are emerging as key contributors to consumer dissatisfaction in the communications sector,” the report said.
“Issues regarding the migration and connection process as well as the quality and the performance of services over the NBN not meeting expectations are likely to be significant sources of these complaints.”
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced earlier this month that it was moving ahead with the introduction of new complaints-handling rules for telcos that offer services over the National Broadband Network.
The ACMA also released new data showing NBN-connected households are unhappy with how their complaints have been handled.
The ACMA data revealed 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.
The ACCC report noted that it has developed a “three-limbed strategy to address the underlying issues behind the increase in complaints in relation to speeds and service performance on the NBN”.
The ACCC is preparing to this month release the first batch of data gathered as part of its broadband performance monitoring program.
The second two key components of the ACCC strategy are its 2017 release of new principles for marketing broadband services and its enforcement activity.
The ACCC during 2017 and 2018 has received court-enforceable undertakings from most of Australia’s biggest broadband retailers relating to their marketing of fibre to the node and fibre to the building NBN services. The commission is also investigating NBN’s wholesale service standards.