Majority of NBN complaints land at RSPs' doorsteps

Majority of NBN complaints land at RSPs' doorsteps

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman received more than 22,000 complaints about services delivered over the NBN

Complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network (NBN) from July to December 2017 totalled 22,827, according to the latest figures by the country's telco industry dispute resolution body. 

NBN Co, the company behind the rollout of the NBN, said in a statement that fewer than five per cent of those complaints (1,052) were sent to NBN Co to be resolved, while the other 21,775 were sent to the network's retail service providers (RSPs) to resolve. 

NBN Co also noted a decline of 16 per cent in the rate of complaints compared to the first half of 2017 -- by volume, when compared to the total number of connections in service.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's (TIO) Six Monthly Update report revealed a 203.0 per cent increase in complaints received about the services compared to the same period in 2016.

It is worth noting that there were more premises connected to the NBN in the 2017 period than in the 2016 period.

“Complaints about services delivered over the National Broadband Network continued to increase compared to the same six month period in 2016," Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

"This indicates the consumer experience is still not meeting expectations for all. Recent changes to regulation and an increase in our powers to resolve complaints are positive steps that will help improve the consumer experience."

Out of the 22,827 complaints, more than 14,000 were about the quality of the service and more than 8,000 about establishing a connection.

NBN Co said that the total number of complaints made to the TIO about services delivered over its network equates to 0.67 per cent of total activated services on the NBN access network.

“The second half of 2017 represented one of the most significant periods of the rollout in terms of prioritising the customer experience. Alongside retailers, our delivery partners and the wider industry, we established a number of company initiatives to improve the broadband experience for end users," NBN Co chief customer officer, Brad Whitcomb, said.

“We evolved our pricing model to help improve speeds on the network during peak hours. As a result, retailers provisioned more bandwidth on the network, shrinking average network bandwidth congestion down from near seven hours to 18 minutes per week when compared with the same period from the previous year (excluding NBN Sky Muster satellite)," he said.

Whitcomb also pointed to the pause on hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) sales and improvements to processes and systems as steps taken by the company to help minimise complaints.

Complaints received

A total of 84,914 complaints were received by the TIO from July to December last year. Comparing this numbers to the previous corresponding year shows an increase of 28.7 per cent. However, there was a decline compared to the first half of 2017, when 92,046 complaints were received.

The six month report compiles complaints from residential consumers and small business registering 74,729 from residential consumers and 9,947 from small businesses.

Most residential complaints were about mobile phone services (30.5 per cent) and internet services (29.5 per cent). Complaints were mostly regarding charges and fees, provider response, poor service quality, connection and no service among others.

Small businesses complained more about landline phone services (21.9 per cent) and mobile phone services (20.9 per cent) than internet services (17.3 per cent).

However, the TIO also has the multiple services category, which is when the user complains about more than one service. This category represented 39.6 per cent of all the small businesses complaints.

“The telecommunications industry in Australia continues to experience significant change," Jones said. "An increasing range of products and services are being offered to consumers, expectations for the quality of phone and internet services are high, and the rollout of the National Broadband Network is changing the way we use telecommunications services.

“However, consumers still seem to be facing the same problems, particularly with their bills and the customer service they receive.

"Confidence in services being updated or transferred reliably, faulty equipment, and poor service quality were also recorded as key issues. Additionally, the wider issues relating to phone or internet problems such as debt management are concerning."

Complaints increased in all states and territories with high increases of over 30 per cent occurring in Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, compared to the same period in 2016.

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