ACMA begins enforcing NBN migration rules backed by AU$10m penalties

The ACMA will be able to take NBN retail service providers to court to gain injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$10 million for non-compliance with its new broadband transition regulations.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is now able to directly enforce its new National Broadband Network (NBN) migration rules, with the federal government agency's powers backed up by the ability to commence court proceedings to seek injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$10 million.

Publishing its Compliance and enforcement statement of approach on Wednesday, the ACMA said the new regulations will ensure consumers have better access to information on NBN services, are given backup options if services are not working, and have complaints addressed faster and more effectively.

"The ACMA is putting telcos on notice that they need to fully understand the new rules and take immediate steps to embed them in their business practices," ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

"The ACMA has already commenced a targeted program of monitoring, audits, and investigations to ensure that industry is complying with the new rules."

The ACMA had been ordered by the federal government to research NBN migration issues in August last year; in December, it then published the new consumer protections to be implemented during the migration to NBN services, after finding that connection issues may not be resolved for over 100 days on some technologies.

As a result of its investigation, the federal government agency last month introduced its final rules for the transition of consumers onto the NBN, including the requirements for line tests and copper speed tests.

Retailers are now also required to provide interim services if a customer has no access to an NBN service within three days.

"These new rules will give consumers greater confidence that their telco will make sure their new NBN service will work as expected and provide options if their connection doesn't work," O'Loughlin said in July.

"For some consumers, an acceptable arrangement might be an uplift in their mobile data allowance; for others, it might be a billing rebate or payment to help cover the data charges."

O'Loughlin added that the ACMA will report regularly on industry compliance, customer experience, and enforcement activities, which could include civil penalties of up to AU$10 million on top of injunctions.

The ACMA had in June unveiled its Consumer Information Standard and Service Continuity Standard, which will both commence on September 21. The former requires retail service providers (RSPs) to provide a key facts sheet to all NBN customers, while the latter ensures consumers have access to a broadband service at all times.

"Together, these rules will require telcos to specify the minimum information that telcos must provide to consumers; 'line test' new services to ensure that lines are working and that faults are identified early; reconnect consumers to legacy network services where readily feasible if a consumer is unable to get a working service over the NBN network; comply with minimum standards for handling of consumer complaints; and report data about the complaints they receive to the ACMA so these can be monitored," O'Loughlin said back in April.

The ACMA on Wednesday morning also published its NBN consumer experience: Households and businesses -- the end-to-end journey [PDF] report, revealing that 31 percent of residences and 42 percent of businesses have made at least one complaint to their NBN retailer in the last 12 months.

"The research provides 'point-in-time' insights that informed the ACMA's new telco rules put in place over the last six months," O'Loughlin said.

The ACMA is also looking into whether modems and modem/routers on the fibre-to-the-node (FttN) and fibre-to-the-building (FttB) networks are causing consumer experience issues.

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