Home Telecoms & NBN ACCAN slams defensive NBN Co over complaints
ACCAN slams defensive NBN Co over complaints Featured

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has reacted with a barrage of criticism over a significant increase in complaints about services delivered by the National Broadband Network.

But the operators of the broadband network, NBN Co, have come out in strong defence of the network saying that the number of complaints have actually dropped when taking into account the number of active services.

ACCAN’s criticism, including comment on what it says are consumer complaints about “buck passing” between NBN and telecommunications providers, follows today’s release of the latest report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The TIO has reported an increase of 117.5% in NBN-related complaints for the six months to the end of December 2016 compared to the corresponding period in 2015.  

The ombudsman also reported that complaints about services delivered over the NBN were up 6.8% to the end of December compared to the preceding six months – January to June 2016.

But in its comment on the TIO report, NBN Co says complaints to the TIO about services delivered over the NBN network have dropped by 30% when taking into account the increase in the number of active services.

NBN Co also says it continues to work with retail service providers and industry to improve consumer experience and that the TIO report shows progress being made with industry in “reducing the number of complaints to the TIO about services delivered over the NBN network”.

But the ACCAN, the peak industry body looking after the interests of telecoms consumers, is critical in a statement issued by its PR department.

“Complaints about services delivered over the NBN have increased quite significantly. The increase in complaints about NBN connections is concerning," it says.

“We are very concerned about what appears to be a trend of complaints going up across the board. This is very disappointing given that in recent years we’ve seen a downward trend in complaints.

“We often hear from consumers who are disconnected or have unusable services for long periods of time due to buck passing between NBN and the telecommunications providers.

“No consumer should be left disconnected for long periods of time. Consumers need to be given clear information about who is responsible for fixing faults and NBN and the telcos must act quickly to rectify issues when they arise.”

The ACCAN says telecommunications providers must ensure that they address consumer complaints and resolve them as quickly as possible, and calls on the industry to improve its complaint handling processes immediately, “before they fall even further behind and lose the gains of previous years”.

“We’ll be talking to the telcos about these increases in complaints to ensure they are addressing problem areas.”

The ACCAN also notes that based on the statistics provided, the three biggest problem areas are customer service, billing and payments and faults.

“Consumers are more reliant than ever on their telecommunications services to access services, education, employment and run small businesses. When they experience issues with these services it can be very frustrating and stressful to get them resolved.”

In further comment on the TIO report, NBN Co says the report tracks, among other metrics, complaints concerning “faults and connection delays” on services delivered over the NBN  network from 1 July to 31 December 2016 (H1 FY17).

“It does not distinguish between complaints that are identified on the NBN network and those that are identified on the retail service provider’s network.

“There has been a 30% reduction in complaints about services delivered over the NBN network from the previous half-year figures when adjusted for the total number of activated premises.”

NBN Co stresses that the TIO report also shows:

An improvement in the rate of complaints concerning faults to 27 complaints for every 10,000 premises (0.27%) activated on the NBN network in H1 FY17 down from 35 complaints (0.35%) in H2 FY16.

An improvement in the rate of complaints concerning connection delays to 56 complaints for every 10,000 new premises (0.56%) activated on the NBN network during the half-year in H1 FY17 down from 91 complaints (0.91%) in H2 FY16.

NBN Co chief customer officer John Simon says the statistics were moving in the right direction, particularly in the second half of the last calendar year.

“NBN Co is working with retail service providers to further improve the overall experience for households and businesses.

“With about 30,000 households and businesses being connected to services over the NBN network every week, an increase in the individual number of issues reported to the TIO reflects the acceleration of the rollout. However from an NBN perspective, we need to continue to improve the consumer experience as we further ramp up.

“That is exactly why NBN Co is working in collaboration with retail service providers to better educate consumers and business owners about how to get the best experience possible from their internet connection while also improving end to end processes.”

Simon says NBN Co encourages people to report any issues directly to their service provider, “who, if they are unable to rectify the fault, will escalate it to NBN Co”.

“This is important because there can often be issues affecting a service that is outside of the NBN network, like equipment quality, software, broadband plans and how each service provider designs its network.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

 

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