The ACCC’s chairperson has hit out at the NBN for creating an unreliable, unaffordable experience for Australian businesses and individuals.
As it stands, about 5 million homes and businesses across Australia have been connected to the NBN.
The NBN reports that 5 per cent of its appointments are missed, but for Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairperson Rod Sims, this figure covers a lot of sin.
“One of our staff who lives 7km from the Sydney CBD recently had three missed appointments in a row before getting connected. The staff member had to be at home on a weekday from 1–5pm each time and, each time, on the day, no one showed. And there was no message to say no one was going to show,” Mr Sims said in a recent speech.
“The staff member, being reasonably informed (perhaps arguably more so than the majority of the thousands of other customers who have had appointments missed), asked the retail service provider (RSP) for compensation but was told there was none available as it was NBN Co who had missed the appointment.
“After some insistence, the retail service provider waived the first month’s connection fee to the tune of about $70.
“Stories like this are common, and while we understand from NBN Co only 5 per cent of appointments were being missed at the time, our staff member felt statistically blighted to have had three of them.”
Mr Sims spoke of the ACCC staff member in question now having slower internet access than before — a familiar story for many Australian businesses.
“This person is now connected, and has less than half the speeds they were promised on a 50 Mbps plan, and much less depending on which room of the house they are in. The retail service provider, and I won’t name names, is looking into it, but the process has been time-consuming. The speeds can be as low as 2–3 Mbps. The cable service the person was previously on performed much better by comparison,” he said.
In the pipeline
As a result of the poor experience of Australian consumers and businesses, the ACCC is doing some work in the communications sector.
“We believe the work the ACCC is doing — for example, in its Measuring Broadband Australia program and on its advertising guidance — is so important. RSPs are now being upfront with consumers about the busy hour speeds that they can typically deliver on their NBN plans, because of this speed guidance, but also in the knowledge that the Measuring Broadband reports are available to provide an independent view of their overall speeds,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC is also addressing areas such as pricing and service standards.