ACMA warns three telcos on providing more NBN info

Ahead of its new rules on NBN consumer protections coming into effect in July, the ACMA has formally instructed three telcos to provide critical information summaries on their websites.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has said it warned three National Broadband Network (NBN) retailers on not providing sufficient critical information on their broadband offerings.

In what it called an "intelligence sweep" of all 131 retailers offering NBN services, the ACMA said 97 percent provided one or more critical information summaries (CIS) on their websites, but that Your Call Telecom, EHW Technology, and Easy Internet Services received formal warnings for not doing so.

"Each provider promptly addressed their non-compliance by developing CIS and including them on their websites," the ACMA added.

A CIS, required under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, must include a description of the service, additional charge information, minimum terms, and inclusions, exclusions, and conditions.

At the time of the review -- between November 16 and December 24, 2017 -- the ACMA said just 7 percent of retailers were adhering to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) speed advertising guidelines; 11 percent were providing information on typical peak period speeds; 22 percent were providing information on how customers can test their broadband speeds; and 80 percent were providing information on factors that affect the speed and quality of their broadband services.

The ACMA added that it is now drafting rules that will specify the information needing to be provided to customers on data speeds and conditions that could affect those data speeds, and will consult on those rules "shortly".

The new ACMA rules are also likely to cover information about power outages and over-the-top services including medical alarm systems, and it is additionally continuing its examination into the impact modems can have on service quality.

"The ACMA is aware that the performance of some modems may mean consumers cannot access optimal speeds on the new network," it said.

"We will undertake a study to identify the modems currently being supplied in the market and test their capabilities. The evidence gathered and any issues identified will inform our response to this matter, including whether there is a need for further regulatory or non-regulatory intervention."

Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said the ACMA will also be introducing its new consumer information rules from July 1.

The ACMA had in December published 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.

"We have had strong concerns for some time about how telcos are helping consumers move to the new network. These concerns have been borne out by our recent analysis of industry's own data," O'Loughlin said at the end of last year.

She added that the data shows many RSPs are not "stepping up to get the right information to consumers and resolve migration issues quickly and effectively".

The ACMA had gathered information about all technologies -- fibre to the premises (FttP), fibre to the node (FttN), fibre to the basement (FttB), hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC), fixed-wireless, and satellite -- from 16 retail service providers (RSPs), four wholesale providers, and NBN.

The ACMA research called the supply chain between NBN and the customer "non-linear", adding that this can make it difficult for RSPs to provide information to their customers about appointments.

"Industry co-regulatory arrangements are not serving consumers well in a number of important areas. As a result, the ACMA will make new mandatory rules to require telcos to improve their performance in these areas," O'Loughlin said.

A new Consumer Information Standard will require all RSPs to provide network-specific information in a standardised format including speeds to be delivered, the technology being used, technical limitations, exit provisions, and what information will be provided in the event of an outage.

The NBN Connection Assurance Standard will require RSPs to "undertake measures to maintain service continuity when consumers are migrating to the new network".

"If a telco breaches an industry standard, the ACMA can commence court proceedings seeking remedies such as injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$250,000. For breaching a service provider rule, the maximum civil penalty a court can impose is AU$10 million," the regulator explained.

"There are no pecuniary penalties for breaching an industry code."

The ACMA was ordered by the federal government to research NBN migration issues in August, with NBN at the time also creating a dedicated churn team to work through issues as quickly as possible.

Last week, the ACCC's first fixed-line broadband speed monitoring report found that NBN retailers are actually delivering up to 90 percent of their speed tier promises during peak hours.

The first Measuring Broadband Australia report [PDF] showed Telstra, Optus, TPG, and iiNet delivering between 80 and 90 percent of their speeds at all times, including the busy hours of between 7pm and 11pm.

The ACCC speed monitoring report follows the consumer watchdog forcing Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, Internode, Dodo, iPrimus, and Commander to compensate tens of thousands of customers for not providing them with the NBN speeds they were paying for.

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