Published: Thu, October 19, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

NBN complaints more than double, a 'cause for concern': Ombudsman

NBN complaints more than double, a 'cause for concern': Ombudsman

It's been a whirlwind week for nbn with the government-owned company announcing that three million premises are now actively using the network while Australia's Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reported that consumer complaints about internet services in Australia have, for the first time, surpassed mobile phone complaints. Completely unusable internet and landline services were the next most popular themes, while slow data speed attracted close to 4,000 complaints.

"While it is fewer than 15 per cent of the "NBN" complaints to the TIO that are directed to NBN Co, this equates to about 1 per cent of the number of activated premises that we are not making the experience the best it can be and we are taking this very seriously", NBN chief executive Bill Morrow said.

· Optus received 28,766 complaints, a year on year increase of 31.2 per cent.

AUSTRALIANS are becoming increasingly frustrated by their telecommunications services, if complaints to the industry Ombudsman are anything to go by, and the NBN is a leading source of that dissatisfaction.

While the TIO noted that the increase in NBN-related complaints is somewhat to be expected given the acceleration of the network's rollout, it is still a concerning trend. To put the ramp of activated services in context, it took NBN five years to activate its first million premises, less than a year to hit the second million, and six months to hit the three million it now has. "Problems can arise with retailers, with other intermediaries, and sometimes the problem can be with the residential consumer's or small businesses' equipment", she said.

"The supply chain for the NBN is complex, and complaints about services delivered over the NBN can be multi-faceted".

We also understand that the frustration is compounded when a customer spends hours on the phone to their RSP to complain about a problem only to be told there's "no fault found" and that everything is fine (when the customer knows it isn't).

For the most recent period, complaints in South Australia saw the highest national increase (increasing 51%), followed by Western Australia (rising 49.1%). The rollout of the NBN is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Australian history, and there are tens of thousands of households switching services, disconnecting and reconnecting every week.

The Parliamentary Committee ruled that the NBN should be subject to the Ombudsman's scheme when it "can be clearly identified as the party at fault" for a complaint.

Nationwide there were 158,016 complaints received by the Ombudsman, a 41 per cent increase on the previous financial year.

"While in many cases it is not possible to attribute fault in this way, in the minority of cases where this attribution is more straightforward, the TIO should have the ability to register complaints directly against NBN, with NBN then responsible for paying the fees associated with that complaint", the report said.

Some of the smaller providers saw massive jumps in their complaint rates. Vodafone received 10,684 complaints, a year on year increase of 37.5%. "Clearly you are going to get more complaints".

"It seems likely the ongoing changes in the telecommunications industry will continue to drive up complaints".

"We are working with retail service providers and industry as a priority to improve these figures and the overall experience for consumers", the statement read.

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