NBN complaints up but outstripped by rollout pace, TIO reports

Complaints about NBN connection delays grow but the network is growing faster, TIO says

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman recorded a 4.6 increase in complaints linked to National Broadband Network services in the July-September quarter.

Delays connecting to the network represented 34.9 per cent of Internet connection delay issues reported to the TIO, the ombudsman said (up from 24.1 per cent for the comparable quarter in 2014).

“The figures … point to a greatly improved experience for consumers who are migrating their services to the National Broadband Network,” Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton said.

“NBN-related complaints to the TIO rose by 4.6 per cent during the quarter, but the number of active premises connected to the NBN rose by 26 per cent during the same period.”

“Clearly the efforts of service providers and NBN Co, combined with the government’s Migration Assurance Policy and the migration guidelines put in place by Communications Alliance are combining to greatly reduce the incidence of issues when customers shift their services onto the NBN,” Stanton said.

“This is an encouraging trend that augurs well for the future roll-out of the network.”

A TIO submission to a government consultation on migrating services to the network said that although NBN complaints grew “considerably” in 2014-15, the figure was outstripped by the pace of the National Broadband Network rollout.

The submission, dated August 2015, stated that the TIO handles 600 to 700 new NBN complaints every month, accounting for 5-6 per cent of monthly complaints to the ombudsman.

“At present, common issues in NBN related new complaints include connection delays, faults and missed appointments,” the submission (PDF) stated.

“Close to half of NBN related complaints each month involve connection issues.”

The TIO said it received complaints from households that lost privacy features such as unlisted numbers during the migration to the NBN.

“The listing of these telephone numbers in public directories gave rise to serious consequences for these consumers, some of whom had to relocate to new premises, and others who had to incur substantial costs to put in place additional security measures at their homes,” the submission stated.

Other complaints include consumers having their copper service disconnected while they were waiting for an NBN service to be connected.

“We take all customer feedback seriously and work closely with our retail providers and construction partners when issues are raised,” an NBN spokesperson said.

“The number complaints is actually going down if you consider the rapid rise in connections this year,” the spokesperson added.

According to NBN, as of 2 July there were 489,158 premises with active NBN services. By 1 October, following the quarter covered in the latest TIO figures, that number had grown 25 per cent to 612,433.

The spokesperson said that the use of fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) would mean a smoother migration path for households.

"The installation process for FTNN in most cases will require no in-home installation, meaning more convenient activation process for homes and businesses,” the spokesperson said.

NBN earlier this year formally launched FTTN services.

Under NBN's plan for a 'multi-technology mix' National Broadband Network, FTTN and fibre-to-the-basement (FTTB) will eventually connect 4.5 million premises.

NBN is aiming to have 3.7 million premises ready to sign up for FTTN services by mid-2018.

“We have more than 1400 FTTN connections now done and more than 50,000 FTTN premises ready for service,” the NBN spokesperson said.

Telco complaints drop

The TIO said that overall, new complaints during the quarter were at their lowest levels since July-September 2006.

The telco received 26,023 new complaints between July and September 2015, which is 14.8 per cent lower than the comparable quarter last year.

Read more: NBN appoints chief network engineer

A reduction in complaints about mobile services was a key driver in the drop, the TIO said.

“The latest results featured a 50 per cent drop in complaints about excess data charges – underlining the success of improved spend management tools for customers and the industry’s drive to tailor mobile and data plans that avoid the risk of customers incurring such charges,” Stanton said.

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