Labor to provide 'NBN service guarantee' if elected

Labor's NBN Service Guarantee would lead to fewer delays in being connected, less downtime once connected, and better accountability for NBN, the opposition has said, with penalties to be paid to consumers.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The federal opposition Labor party has announced that it will establish a National Broadband Network (NBN) service guarantee if elected, including consumer compensation for NBN "underperformance".

In a joint statement by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland on Sunday afternoon, they said the NBN Service Guarantee is an effort to ensure "fairer" NBN services.

"At the moment, there are no meaningful remedies to make NBN accountable for missed appointments and customer downtime," Shorten and Rowland said, referring to complaints about NBN services rising by more than 200 percent last year.

"That's why Labor is acting to support small businesses and consumers by developing clear standards for connection timeframes, fault repair timeframes, and missed technician appointments.

"If NBNCo doesn't meet these standards then they'll be fined and the consumer will be compensated -- it's that simple."

According to Labor, if elected it would work together with NBN, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), experts, and stakeholders to develop the standards and penalty amounts.

"As part of this policy, responsibility for wholesale NBN service standards and the consumer pass through will be consolidated within the ACCC to ensure there is a single line of regulatory oversight," Rowland and Shorten said.

"Penalties will be structured around individual consumer outcomes, with stronger penalties in place to help safeguard small businesses from excessive downtime."

Labor's announcement follows the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) last week unveiling new standards to help reduce issues when consumers migrate to NBN services.

The Consumer Information Standard and Service Continuity Standard will both commence on September 21, with the former requiring retail service providers (RSPs) to provide a key facts sheet to all NBN customers and the latter ensuring consumers have access to a broadband service at all times.

"Telcos need to step up to provide better information to their customers and make sure they are not left without a service during their migration to NBN-based services," ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said on Friday.

Any breaches of the standards will be "immediately and directly enforceable", the ACMA said, including court-enforceable via injunctions and civil penalties reaching AU$250,000.

The ACMA had in December 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.

It had been 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.

The ACCC is meanwhile reporting on the speeds being delivered to consumers, with its first fixed-line broadband speed monitoring report having 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 followed 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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