The ACCC is worried NBN’s pricing is putting unnecessary pressure on Australians who are forced to switch over to the network from their legacy service.
ACCC chair, Rod Sims, warned that the regulator may have to take further action to ensure Australians – especially those on lower incomes – aren’t worse-off by switching to the NBN.
“Consumers who do not want ‘bells and whistles’ are struggling to find cheap, entry level, fixed broadband and voice products,” ACCC chair, Rod Sims said.
“Although the very recent changes to NBN Co’s products and pricing are helpful, the ACCC is continuing to consider whether further action is needed to make sure consumers aren’t worse off when they switch to the NBN.”
In its annual Communications Market Report, the competition watchdog flagged that entry-level NBN plans – like the 12/1 Mbps speed tier designed as an ADSL replacement – cost more than older services and are often bundled with unnecessarily high data capacities.
“Most consumers have no choice but to migrate from their legacy service to the NBN, but many are finding it increasingly difficult to find a comparable entry level NBN service at a similar price to their legacy ADSL service,” the report said.
“The ACCC is concerned that not all consumers are benefitting equally from investment in communications infrastructure, and there is a risk that some consumers may be forced to pay more for a service without getting more value or taking up a service that does not meet their needs.”
Moving customers over to the NBN has been a tricky prospect for some telcos who have come under scrutiny for the tactics they have employed to encourage users onto their services in a highly competitive market.
Optus copped a $6.4 million fine in December for running a campaign aimed at scaring its customers into switching to Optus NBN and BVivid received a much smaller fine last year for making similar misleading statements.
Dodo was fined for saying its low-speed, small data quota service was “perfect for streaming”.
NBN Co recently conducted a review into its wholesale pricing in response to retailers and consumers who have been feeling the pinch.
NBN Co’s Chief Customer Officer, Brad Whitcomb, said at the time that the pricing restructure “will allow [retailers] to provide their customers with greater choice and even more affordable retail broadband products”.
Advocate group the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said in response to NBN’s review that it still wanted to see more done to help low-income earners gain access to the $51 billion infrastructure project.
“We know that there are approximately one million low income households who are at risk of not switching over to the NBN due to the cost of NBN broadband plans,” ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said.
“Given the substantial threat this poses to digital inclusion in Australia, we need to develop a concessional broadband service as soon as possible.
“If we don’t, Australians may be forced to substitute the NBN for mobile broadband, or go without a connection entirely.”
Although concerned that Australia’s most vulnerable might still be missing out on vital 21st century technology, the ACCC noted that there have been some minor improvements to fixed broadband services around the country.
The annual price decreased an average of 2.3 per cent over the past five years.
And nearly 60 per cent of all fixed broadband plans have unlimited data – up from merely 6 per cent in 2014-15.