The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has rapped seven telcos over the knuckles for failures to abide by new rules governing consumer information about NBN plans offered by retail service providers (RSPs).
The regulator found that Activ8me, Aussie Broadband, Flip TV, Hello Broadband, Mate Communicate, My Net Fone and Telechoice had all contravened the NBN Consumer Information standard. The RSPs paid fines totalling $88,200 for breaching the standard, which came into effect in September last year.
The NBN Consumer Information standard was one of a suite of new measures introduced by the ACMA to tackle rising household complaints about NBN services. Other standards created by the regulator seek to stop consumers paying for unachievable speeds and being left without Internet access during migration to the NBN.
The NBN Consumer Information standard mandates that RSPs provide consumers with a one-page ‘key facts sheet’ (KFS) before a contract is signed and that ads for NBN services must include details such as the typical ‘busy period’ download speeds a household can expect.
The standard also requires consumers to be advised whether they can keep their phone number and, if their connection can’t deliver the speed tier specified in their plan, what remedies are available. RSPs are also required to ascertain whether a household has a medical or consumer alarm service in operation.
The seven RSPs were found to have breached the standard for a range of reasons: For example not having a KFS available for certain plans on their website, using a smaller font to convey typical peak-period download speeds, or, in the case of Aussie Broadband saying in its KFS that it would advise consumers of what they could do to address a sub-par connection quality (rather than setting out the remedies available to consumers).
“Our standard requires telcos to provide clear and meaningful information about their NBN plans in one-page key facts sheet and in their advertising,” ACMA authority member Fiona Cameron said in a statement.
“Failing to give consumers clear and honest information about NBN plans is unacceptable and can lead to misleading conduct as recently highlighted by the recent Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s report.”
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman last week released a special report revealing the use of high-pressure sales tactics by telcos trying to sell NBN services.
“Telcos need to provide information that will assist consumers to choose an NBN plan that suits their needs and if they don’t they will be held to account,” said Cameron
“These financial penalties send a strong message to telcos that they need to comply with the rules.”