Telco ombudsman records 204 per cent growth in NBN-related complaints

NBN roll out map across the Northern Rivers

NBN roll out map across the Northern Rivers. Contributed

The number of Australia homes and businesses connected to faster national broadband speed plans has more than doubled thanks to NBN Co's temporary discounted pricing which the company says will be superseded by new bundles from May.

NBN said that only 1052 of the complaints relating to services on the new network had been passed on to it to resolve.

Most NBN complaints lodged with the TIO involved issues with "service quality", though some consumers complained about "problems establishing a connection" to the network.

The TIO figures do not represent all complaints related to Internet services, including NBN services - the figures include only those where a complaint has been made to the ombudsman.

"While the slowdown in the rate of complaints is encouraging, NBN Co acknowledges there is still more work to be done, particularly at this critical stage of the rollout as we balance prioritising customer experience without taking our foot off the construction pedal", NBN chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said.

"Industry - including service providers and NBN Co - are working intensely on a range of measures to improve the overall consumer experience".

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NBN Co says orders for NBN wholesales speeds of 50Mbps or higher rose from 16 per cent in December to 37 per cent, with more than one million people upgrading their internet speeds in the last four months.

Beginning on 1 July a year ago the TIO changed how it records complaints.

"Our recording of the issues is now based on six broad categories that follow the lifecycle of a residential consumer or small business' relationship with their provider", Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

"The telecommunications industry in Australia continues to experience significant change". The company said that in the six months covered by the report the number of households and businesses with NBN services increased by 39 per cent.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the existing model for complaint handling and redress was not working, and a root and branch review was required.

"Trend analysis will build over time from the start of this reporting period".

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"Our industry can not be satisfied with these numbers and we will continue to implement measures - including through the enforceable Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code that is now being revised - created to improve the overall customer experience", Gillespie-Jones said. "Recent changes to regulation and an increase in our powers to resolve complaints are positive steps that will help improve the consumer experience".

The TIO received 84,914 complaints in the six month period ending 31 December 2017.

Ms Jones said most of those complaints were about charges and fees and provider responses and services but weather conditions in these regions also contributed to the climb.

New South Wales had the highest total complaints with 26,914, up 27.9 percent, followed by Victoria's 23,954 complaints, or a 30.5 percent increase.

Of all complaints, 74,729 came from residential consumers and 9,947 from small businesses.

And there has been a huge cut in average congestion, down to 18 minutes per week compared to almost 7 hours per week in March 2017.

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The ACMA's new rules will require line tests on NBN services, reconnecting customers to legacy services where the NBN is unusable, providing minimum information to consumers, and reporting complaints data to the ACMA.

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