ACCC calls for industry feedback over NBN Co service levels

ACCC calls for industry feedback over NBN Co service levels

Inquiry could result in Government regulation specifying service levels

The Australian consumer watchdog is calling on industry feedback about the service levels the company behind the National Broadband Network (NBN), NBN Co, commits to in its wholesale contracts with resellers around connections, fixing faults and appointments.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a discussion paper on 18 December, exploring issues relating to service providers’ access to rebates or compensation when NBN Co fails to meet its wholesale service commitments.

The standards under scrutiny are a key part of the commercial arrangements between NBN Co and internet service providers (ISPs) that affect NBN customer experiences.

The inquiry will consider whether to make a final access determination (FAD) that specifies service levels or other non-price terms and conditions. It will also consider whether interim regulated terms should be made.

If the ACCC goes ahead with such a determination, it would see the specified service levels, terms and conditions written into the commercial contract between NBN Co and resellers, known as the wholesale broadband agreement (WBA), set out under Government regulation.

“NBN is now in its peak rollout phase and the ACCC is concerned that complaints about connecting to services, including missed appointments and having faults repaired, will continue to grow unless improvements are made now," ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said.

“This inquiry will consider whether there are appropriate incentives for NBN Co to remedy service failures. We will also look at the compensation made available by NBN Co to ISPs, which are responsible for providing redress directly to consumers when things go wrong.”

Sims said that the ACCC heard concerns from ISPs about services standards not being adequate to ensure a good experience for customers connecting to and having faults repaired for NBN services.

Submissions will be accepted until Friday 16 February 2018.

The ACCC published its draft Communications Sector Market Study report on 30 October, detailing its review of competition in the sector.

The draft report contained 29 recommendations spanning a wide range of competition and consumer issues in communications markets, following a year-long market study.

Among the areas of concern, ACCC found that the competitiveness of smaller retail service providers (RSPs) may be impeded by their access to key wholesale inputs used to offer services on the NBN, such as aggregation services.

On 2 November, the ACCC commenced a public inquiry to determine whether NBN wholesale service standard levels are appropriate. It was seeking to find out if regulation is necessary to improve consumer experiences.

The ACCC's call for industry feedback comes just over a month after NBN Co released its latest wholesale broadband agreement (WBA3), following more than two years of negotiations with telcos and retail service providers (RSPs).

New measures in the latest version of the WBA are aimed at helping to "further improve the experience of end users on the NBN network”. The measures include a new two-hour service level for hand-offs from NBN Co to RSPs.

Additional changes will mean that, where there is an appointment reschedule, NBN Co will notify the RSP of the reschedule within one hour of the appointment being rescheduled.

“NBN Co is pleased to see the execution of an updated agreement with phone and internet providers that is designed to improve the quality and timeliness of the wholesale services it offers,” a spokesperson for NBN Co told ARN at the time.

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