The use of high-pressure sales tactics by telcos trying to sell NBN services to households and small businesses has been condemned by groups representing consumers and the telecommunications industry.
Complaints body the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) today released a report highlighting misleading telemarketing of NBN products by some retail service providers (RSPs). The TIO said that in 2018 it received 1729 complaints about misleading conduct in which the consumer mentioned the NBN.
“Based on enquiries received by our office, a small number of retail service providers are increasing confusion for residential consumers and small businesses by using misleading telemarketing practices to sell their NBN plans,” the TIO report said.
Tactics employed by the telemarketers include misleading consumers about who they work for, claiming that a household could lose its services or phone number if they don’t switch to a telco’s NBN service immediately, or providing inaccurate information in relation to pricing and contract terms. In some cases telemarketers have suggested an individual’s existing telco will not be able to supply NBN services.
“Consumers are being told information about moving to the NBN that is simply not true and puts them at a disadvantage,” Ombudsman Judi Jones said.
“This is concerning behaviour from a small group of phone and internet providers and should stop. In some cases we have shared information about this issue with the relevant regulators so they can consider further action.
“Moving to the NBN is not automatic, and consumers need to know they can make a measured and informed decision about which NBN provider is right for them. If the consumer is feeling pressured by a telemarketer, it is fine to hang up. If they find themselves signed up to a contract they don’t want or need, and can’t fix the issue with the provider, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman can help.”
“Migrating to the NBN access network is a move many Australians will have to make for the first time to keep connected, and it’s disappointing to hear some retailers have been communicating misleading information to customers about connecting,” an NBN Co spokesperson said.
“We want to remind Australians that the move to the NBN access network is not automatic, we provide a 18-month migration window for people to move across, and all homes and businesses have a choice about which retailer they would like to connect them to the network.
“We urge residents to be wary of retailers using misleading sales practices to pressure a switch to the NBN access network that they are not comfortable with or is prior to their assigned disconnection date.”
Telecommunications industry group Communications Alliance said that it condemned the “behaviour of a small number of service providers” that use misleading sales practices.
“It is very disappointing when a provider breaches consumer trust, and the rules it is required to observe,” said the group’s CEO John Stanton.
Stanton said that his organisation is working with Communications Compliance and the Australian Communications and Media Authority to “provide education on supplier requirements across the sector”.
The Comms Alliance CEO said a new version of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code that comes into effect today will help address some of the practices highlighted by the TIO report.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see that some telcos are exploiting consumer confusion around the switch to the NBN,” said the chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Teresa Corbin. “Consumers are entitled to accurate information and should not be pressured into making any sort of purchase.”
Optus is one telco that has recently come under fire over misleading claims to consumers about potential service disconnections. Last month the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it was hauling the telco to court over a marketing email sent to some households claiming they would be “disconnected very soon” and urging them to switch to its NBN services.