National Broadband Network (NBN) resellers look set to come under further scrutiny by the country’s consumer watchdog over misleading speed claims, with more “interventions” on the way.
“Consumer issues in the provision of broadband services, including addressing misleading speed claims and statements made during the transition to the NBN, have become one of the ACCC’s most prominent issues in the past two years,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman, Rod Sims, said at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event on 20 February.
“You have seen a number of ACCC enforcement actions in 2017 and can expect further interventions this year,” he said.
The comments come less than four months after Telstra, Optus and TPG all agreed to offer refunds to customers who may have received slower NBN speeds than what was offered in the products they bought through the resellers.
Altogether, roughly 58,700 Australian consumers could receive compensation from Australia’s top three telcos.
In each case, the promise of compensation was made following action by the ACCC, which spent much of the latter part of 2017 scrutinising NBN retail service providers (RSPs) and their NBN marketing collateral.
In Telstra’s case, the telco notified the ACCC that approximately 9,000 of its customers on 100/40 Mbps and 50/20 Mbps plans could not receive speeds above the next lower speed plan. With the ACCC’s investigation subsequently revealing that a larger pool of customers were impacted.
In early December, Optus quickly followed the lead of Telstra in its move to offer “remedies” to more than 8,700 of its customers who were misled about maximum speeds they could achieve on certain Optus NBN plans.
Just weeks later, on 20 December, TPG Internet became the third telco in Australia to agree to compensate customers that were misled about maximum speeds they could achieve on certain TPG NBN plans, with up to 8,000 customers affected.
The ACCC revealed plans in July last year to take legal action by the end of 2017 against telcos that are found to have misled consumers over broadband speed claims.
Now, it appears that NBN resellers can expect more of the same. While Sims previously said he would start at the big end of town with its action, it remains to be seen whether the “further interventions” flagged by Sims are likely to hit smaller RSPs.
Sims also announced that the first report of the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia program will be released shortly.
The ACCC revealed on 7 April last year that the Government would provide funding for its broadband performance monitoring program, aimed at providing consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband speeds.
“This work should be seen as part of a suite of work the ACCC is taking in the net economy, and includes competition and consumer issues concerning the use of digital platforms, algorithms and consumer data,” Sims said during his CEDA presentation.