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ACCC Launches Official Inquiry Into NBN Service Standards

The ACCC has launched an official public inquiry, focused on determining whether NBN wholesale service standards are “appropriate”, and if regulation is needed to improve the “customer experience”.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, claims that an inquiry is required, following the large number of complaints relating to NBN wholesale service standards:

“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”

“Many of these complaints relate to matters set out in wholesale service level standards. We will examine whether the service levels that are currently in place are appropriate and effective”.

Mr Sims affirms that the inquiry is especially important, as events that occur at the wholesale level, naturally flow onto the retailer and end-user level.

[ACCC Chairman – Rod Sims]

At current, the ACCC claims that wholesale service standard levels are set out in commercial agreements, established between the NBN Co and its wholesale customers (ie. retail service providers).

Elements comprised within these agreements include “performance objectives and operational targets” concerning NBN products and services. Ramifications for standard service level breaches are also stipulated, in addition to a framework for wholesale customers to claim compensation, or receive commercial rebates.

Mr Sims affirms that remedies and incentives for standard service levels will also be closely analysed:

“One of the main focuses of our inquiry will be whether there are appropriate incentives for NBN Co to remedy service failures, along with the adequacy of compensation available to wholesale customers, to ensure consumers, in turn, are provided appropriate redress when things go wrong”

“While our inquiry will focus on NBN wholesale service levels, we will examine them in the context of the supply chain. 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”.

Following on from the TIO’s recent report, which found a 160% increase in NBN-related complaints over the past twelve months, the ACCC is especially interested in the long term effect to customers, should the issues not be resolved now.

Mr Sims affirms:

“We will consider what wholesale service standard levels are required to improve customer experiences. 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”

“The ACCC will liaise closely with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) as our inquiry proceeds. ACMA is also considering supply chain issues to determine how they affect outcomes at the retail level, and has gained very useful survey data that we will tap into”

Next month, the consumer watchdog will release a consultation paper analysing these issues, with the intention to decide whether access determination is required.

A spokesperson for the NBN Co. has informed ChannelNews that it is committed to working “constructively with the ACCC”, and is “pleased to see the broad focus of the inquiry on the entirety of the supply chain, including wholesale and retail service levels”.

The company states in addition to changes to the Wholesale Broadband Agreement,”further initiatives to improve customer experience” will be implemented across the following areas:

  • Improved installation experience
  • Advanced fault detection
  • Enhanced case management with retail service providers
  • National awareness campaign
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