Workers laying/hauling fibre NBN cable. Picture: Chris Higgins
Workers laying/hauling fibre NBN cable. Picture: Chris Higgins

What the NBN didn’t tell you

THE NBN's latest monthly report might suggest the government-owned corporation is getting its act together, however official complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) show a different story.

Half-yearly figures released by the TIO show more than a quarter of the 84,914 complaints by residential and business customers were about services delivered over the NBN.

In total, a staggering 22,827 official complaints about NBN-related connections were made in the six months prior to December 31 - twice the number from the same period the year earlier.

Majority of complaints were related to service quality, with customers unsatisfied by provider responses, while other issues were around connection delays.

According to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's July to December 2017 update, the complaints - which may include more than one issue - were broken down as follows:

Provider response - 10,222

Poor service quality - 9006

Connection/changing provider - 8929

No service - 6778

Charges and fees - 4348

Making a contract - 490

Infrastructure - 337

Contract - 250

Equipment - 247

Damage - 297

NBN said of the 22,827 complaints made to the ombudsman, it only had to resolve 1052 of them - a decline of 16 per cent compared to the same period in the previous year.

With the existing model for complaint handling and redress clearly not working, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said a fresh review into customer safeguards was required.

"No matter who the responsible party is, the complaints figures are simply too high," he said. "The current model for protecting consumers needs reform."

Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield wants a review of the telco industry. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP
Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield wants a review of the telco industry. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

Ombudsman Judi Jones said while the increase in NBN complaints is not surprising given the growing number of connections to the network, the rise is concerning and the service is still not meeting expectations.

The review will aim to ensure customers have access to effective and transparent complaint handling and redress schemes, with telcos held to account through compensation and penalties.

It will also look to guarantee consumers are given reasonable time frames for connections, repairs and appointments, are able to make informed choices and are treated fairly.

"Customers are continuing to experience poor service and are unable to get their service provider to satisfactorily resolve issues," Senator Fifield said.

"The fact that complaints to the TIO are still high across all types of fixed line and mobile services clearly shows that the telcos need to lift their game."

The news comes as the NBN's latest monthly report suggests more than a million customers are now enjoying faster speeds thanks to lower prices and a 50 per cent boost of additional bandwidth.

"Three months ago we had less than one in 15 users connected to our 'sweet spot' wholesale 50Mbps plans - today we have more than one in four signed-up to them for better value than what they would have previously been paying," NBN Co's chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said.

"Not only are more people starting to experience the benefits of connecting to high speed plans but our work with industry continues to deliver a world class network performance as the average network bandwidth congestion per Australian home is consistently sitting below 30 minutes per week compared with more than six hours per week this time last year."

"Our insights indicate people who have connected to higher speed plans are now happier with their experience and are able to better enjoy the benefits of fast broadband such as streaming using multiple devices, working from home and access to online education resources."

Recommendations will be provided to the government by the end of this year.

- With AAP



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