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ACCC urges broadband retailers to update product labels

ACCC urges broadband retailers to update product labels

New guidance released in effort to quell broadband network speed issues

ACCC chairperson Rod Sims

ACCC chairperson Rod Sims

The Australian consumer watchdog has served up new ways for broadband resellers to talk about their services in fresh guidance aimed at resolving speed issues among end customers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published the new guidance for broadband retail service providers (RSPs) on 21 August, outlining how RSPs can better describe what network speeds their various broadband products will deliver to consumers.

It seeks to move RSPs from advertising their services based on the maximum internet speeds that may be delivered during off-peak periods, to the speeds consumers can expect to achieve during the busy evening periods between 7pm and 11pm.

“Currently around 30 per cent of NBN [National Broadband Network] customers have been sold low-speed plans, with many not realising their internet speeds may not be any better – and in some cases worse – than existing ADSL services,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said.

“Many other NBN customers, while on higher speed services, experience lower than expected speeds during busy periods due to under provisioning of capacity by their retail service provider,” he said.

In its efforts to make RSPs’ speed claims clearer, the ACCC has created a collection of standard labels it would like the industry to adopt in order to give consumers better information about what sort of speeds they can expect during the evenings and better allow consumers to compare plans.

The labels include ‘basic evening speed’, ‘standard evening speed’, ‘standard evening plus speed’ and ‘premium evening speed’, with each tier outlining a minimum typical busy period network speed.

“With this guidance, if you buy a ‘Basic evening speed’ plan you should generally not expect speeds much different to your pre-NBN experience. If you buy ‘Standard evening speed’ or higher plans, you should expect certain minimum speeds during busy periods,” Sims said.

“Retailers should be very clear with customers about the typical speeds they can expect during busy evening periods. It is not acceptable to advertise an ‘up to’ speed claim, as this can give the false impression that the speed advertised is achievable at most times, including during the busy period.

“In some cases it is not clear from the advertisements what sorts of internet speeds consumers can expect at all,” he said.

The new guidance  stipulates that if consumers are experiencing problems with their network connections or other faults that affect their service, they will be resolved quickly or be offered a refund or cancellation of their contract by RSPs.

“Under the ACCC’s new guidance, retailers should work quickly to identify faults and resolve customer complaints about the speed or performance of their retail services,” Sims said.

The move comes as the ACCC cracks down on questionable speed claims from RSPs, and works to establish where network speed issues experienced by end customers – specifically NBN users – arise.

In July, the ACCC revealed plans to take legal action by the end of the year against telcos that are found to have misled consumers over broadband speed claims.

“We’ll have a few cases in court by the end of the year,” ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, told the ABC’s Peter Ryan on 20 July.  “But we want to make sure that we solve this problem; we want to bring about broader change within the industry, and give better information to consumers.”

Sims revealed that, at present, the ACCC was focused squarely on the four largest players in the local market: Telstra, Optus, Vocus and TPG.

To this end, the ACCC is in the midst of launching a program to monitor the country’s broadband speeds and crack down on dodgy speed claims by network resellers.

The competition watchdog revealed on 7 April it would finally push play on its plan to monitor the country’s broadband speeds following an injection of funding by the Federal Government.


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