Complaints to TIO about NBN rise strongly

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The Telcom Industry Ombudsman's (TIO) latest report has revealed NBN related complaints soared over 200% in the second half of 2017 [versus the same period in 2016] - news which has triggered a fresh review from the Federal Government.

"While our industry is dealing with disruption, in part caused by the significant increase in NBN connections and migration to the network, we are disappointed with the high level of complaints in the second half of 2017", Communications Alliance director of program management Christiane Gillespie-Jones said.

Consumer complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) about the National Broadband Network (NBN) have risen by 204 percent year on year to 22,827 for the first half of the year.

Complaints about services running on the NBN were not broken down by consumer versus small business, but the overall incidence of NBN-related complaints has increased faster than the growth in connected premises.

The TIO is an industry-funded organisation that aims to help resolve disputes between consumers or small businesses and their phone and internet providers.

However, Jones added that "consumers still seem to be facing the same problems" in regards to customer service and bills. Even though the numbers are still growing strongly, the rate of growth has eased slightly from the 33.8% reported for 2H16.

Complaints were predominantly from residential consumers at 74,729 complaints, or 88 percent of the total. The remaining 238 came from not for profit organisations.

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The national broadband network is still not meeting consumer expectations with complaints continuing to rise as more homes and businesses connect to the network, the industry ombudsman says.

New South Wales had the highest total complaints with 26,914, up 27.9 percent, followed by Victoria's 23,954 complaints, or a 30.5 percent increase.

NBN Co has also recently been restructuring its pricing plan it sells to internet service providers to make it cheaper to buy more capacity to ensure that there is enough bandwidth for customers during peak periods.

The TIO changed the way service types and issues were categorised from 1 July 2017, preventing more detailed comparisons with previous periods. NBN Co's chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb has argued that it is less than one per cent of people on the NBN who have lodged complaints, and most of those were related to internet service providers, rather than the NBN itself, stating just five per cent of NBN complaints ending up with NBN Co to resolve. Indeed, this writer's experience is that it is practically impossible to have complaints handled by someone who can actually deal with the issue - as opposed to merely reciting a script that doesn't cover the exact situation - unless you take the matter to the TIO.

Most NBN complaints were about provider response, at 10,222 in total; poor service quality, at 9,006; connection/changing provider, at 8,929; no service, at 6,778; charges and fees, at 4,348; making a contract, at 490; infrastructure, at 337; in contract, at 250; equipment, at 247; and access or damage to property, at 207 complaints.

Again, the TIO has changed the complaint categories, so direct comparisons can not be made with 2H16.