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Woeful NBN services attract ACCC's attention

Mulls rewrite to wholesale service standards to give punters some leverage

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has opened an inquiry into whether it needs to intervene in the National Broadband Network's (NBN's) service standards.

The decision follows sustained and growing complaints over a range of service problems, chiefly connection delays, fault repairs, and over-contended ISP backbones.

At least the first two issues are on the ACCC's mind, with the regulator's announcement quoting chairman Rod Sims as saying: “We are very concerned about the high number of complaints from consumers around poor customer experiences, particularly in relation to customers connecting to NBN services and having faults repaired”.

Sims noted that wholesale service standards already exist, but the cacophony of dissatisfaction made the public inquiry necessary.

Over the last year, NBN-related complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman have skyrocketed by 160 per cent. nbn™, the company building and operating the NBN, points to the growth in connections as making a growth in complaints inevitable.

“We will consider what wholesale service standard levels are required to improve customer experiences,” Sims said. “We also believe increased transparency around service outcomes and clear consequences and redress options where standards are not met, by those best placed to manage the risk, will be important”.

While this inquiry will focus on wholesale services, Sims acknowledged the knock-on to retailers, and said the inquiry will include the retail context: “We are also concerned that some service levels at the retail level are not enforceable. If we identify other changes to aspects of the supply chain that will improve customer experiences on the NBN, we will certainly highlight them”.

The discussion paper will be published at the ACCC's site in December. ®

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