Australia’s Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has flagged the rapid growth in the number of complaints it has received about services delivered via the National Broadband Network (NBN) as a cause for concern.
The TIO, which provides an independent dispute resolution service for small business and residential customers who have a complaint about their telephone or internet service, released its Annual Report 2016/17 on 18 October.
According to findings, for the first time ever, complaints about internet services in Australia are now higher than complaints about mobile phones.
Specifically, the TIO said that complaints about services delivered via the NBN increased by more than 100 per cent compared to 2015/16, which includes an increase in complaints about connection delays and reliability issues, such as faults.
Indeed, 27,195 complaints were recorded about services delivered over the NBN, a year on year increase of 159.3 per cent.
Furthermore, 16,221 complaints were recorded about faults in services delivered over the national broadband network, representing 6.7 fault complaints per 1,000 premises activated.
Meanwhile, 11,224 complaints were recorded about connection delays to services delivered over the national broadband network - this is 8.3 connection delay complaints per 1,000 premises activated.
Delays to connections are the main cause for complaints, followed by internet and landline faults for services delivered over the NBN.
While the TIO noted that the increase in NBN-related complaints is somewhat to be expected given the acceleration of the network’s rollout, it is still a concerning trend.
“Complaints about services delivered over the national broadband network more than doubled, and while this is somewhat to be expected given the accelerating rollout, the increase is a cause for concern,” Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Judi Jones, said in the report.
“The supply chain for the NBN is complex, and complaints about services delivered over the NBN can be multi-faceted. Problems can arise with retailers, with other intermediaries, and sometimes the problem can be with the residential consumer’s or small businesses’ equipment.
"We are increasingly working with all the relevant parties in the supply chain to navigate these complexities and get the problem fixed."
The company behind the NBN, nbn, said in a statement that it acknowledges that the increase in complaints to the TIO about services delivered over its network in the 2016/17 financial year is “regrettable”.
“Overall TIO complaints about services delivered over the nbn network represent about 1 per cent of the number of activated premises,” nbn said. “We are working with retail service providers and industry as a priority to improve these figures and the overall experience for consumers.
“There is a direct correlation between the speed of the rollout and the increase in complaints – while the business is taking this very seriously and working to improve the customer experience, it is an unfortunate reality of such a fast-paced infrastructure build."
Indeed, nbn revealed on 16 October that it is stepping up its efforts to reduce lengthy connection times as it notches up three million activations on the network around the country.
“In terms of getting connected, we’re focused on what we call ‘aged tickets’ within the nbn system – customers who’ve been waiting too long to connect to the nbn access network,” nbn's chief network engineering officer, Peter Ryan, said in a blog post.
The company said that its ultimate aim is to stop customers getting “ping-ponged” between itself and NBN retail service providers (RSPs) to solve a problem.
Read more on the next page...