New regulatory rules have been revealed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in an effort to combat the ever-growing complaints about the National Broadband Network.
The ACMA has outlined the first set of new rules for retailers to ensure improved transparency and an improved experience for users on the NBN.
The new powers require retailers to formally establish a complaints handling process focusing on customer needs and expectations, make its processes freely available to customers, and establish processes for monitoring and analysing complaints records to identify systemic issues.
These records of complaints will have to be kept by retailers for at least two years under the proposed new rules.
Customers will also be given the right to escalate their complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman if it is not resolved in a reasonable amount of time by the carriage service provider.
It’s part of a wider effort to improve the customer experience on the NBN and reduce the number of skyrocketing complaints around it.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's annual report for July to December 2017 found complaints about the NBN increased 203.9% from the previous year to 22,827.
A new research report by the ACMA, which involved interviewing nearly 2000 households with an NBN connection, found that of the households that had made a complaint and had it resolved, almost a quarter were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with its handling.
These complaints were mostly about the service taking too long to connect, poor communication during the process and nobody taking responsibility for the raised issues.
The ACMA accepted submissions on the draft new rules until mid-April, and they are expected to come into effect in June.
Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield said the new rules are about ensuring the ACMA has the necessary powers to protect Australian consumers.
“The NBN is being rolled out at such a rapid pace that around 30,000 homes and businesses are making the switch every week, and 3.6 million are already connected,” Fifield said.
“While the overwhelming majority of users have a smooth migration onto the NBN, we want to ensure the ACMA is a strong cop on the beat, armed to protect consumers from the handballing of complaints.”
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the new rules will help make the process of transitioning to the NBN a smooth and easy one.
“Telco customers deserve to have their complaints dealt with quickly and effectively. As industry co-regulation is proving ineffective in this area, we will put in place rules so that the ACMA can act more quickly to deal with non-compliance,” O’Loughlin said.
“Together, this package will help consumers migrate seamlessly to the new network -- from understanding their choices before they sign up, through to connecting and getting help when they need it.”
Plans for a range of new consumer protections were announced in December last year, and these are the first to be revealed. Others to come include rules requiring retailers to perform a line test to confirm a working connection at installation and to explain to consumers how different speed tiers can be applied in their home or business.