NBN complaints double over 2016: TIO

Complaints about connection delays, service faults, and dropouts were regularly reported about the NBN over the 2015-16 financial year, according to the TIO.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has published its Annual Report 2015-16, revealing that the number of consumer complaints about the National Broadband Network (NBN) was 13,406 -- a 99.6 percent increase from the 6,715 complaints recorded a year ago.

NBN complaints "increased significantly", the TIO's report [PDF] said, after growing all year.

"We saw nearly a 100 percent increase in the number of NBN-related complaints this year, but the rate of growth is lower than the growth of active services," Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

"Delays in connections to the network, faults including unusable services, and dropout of services were regularly reported, which is of concern."

Both NBN and the TIO rolled out the usual reasoning that complaints are growing less quickly than the network, and so while there was an increase in complaints, it was proportional to the rapid increase in NBN coverage.

"The NBN network is rapidly growing in size; in the last financial year, we more than doubled the number of serviceable premises to almost 1.2 million premises from 485,000 in the previous financial year," an NBN spokesperson said.

"With this rapid increase in end users and construction activity, an increase in the number of issues reported to the TIO is to be expected. From an NBN perspective, one fault or complaint is one too many, and we will continue to enhance our construction and activation processes and work with our RSPs to improve service levels and customer satisfaction."

The TIO said the increase in complaints was "expected" due to the accelerating NBN rollout.

"It is positive that the rate of growth in the number of active services on the NBN is greater than the growth in complaints about services delivered over the NBN," the TIO said.

The most complaints about NBN services were in relation to faults, including slow data speeds, dropouts, and unusable services; and connections, including connection delays and missed appointments.

There were 7,480 fault issues for NBN services, up 147.8 percent year on year, while connection complaints numbered 7,948 for the NBN, up 63.2 percent since last year.

The top 10 areas for NBN complaints were Bundaberg, Queensland, at 225 complaints; Belmont, New South Wales, at 204; Toukley, NSW, at 192; Wyong, NSW, at 188; Caboolture, Queensland, at 182; Ballarat, Victoria, at 165; Blacktown, NSW, at 157; Central Coast, NSW, at 149; Launceston, Tasmania, at 148; and Gosford, NSW, at 135.

The TIO reported that overall complaints about all telecommunications services decreased by 9.6 percent year on year, down to 112,518 during FY16, which also amounted to a 43 percent decrease between 2011 and 2016 thanks to telcos focusing on improving customer service as well as investments in mobile infrastructure across the country.

This was mostly thanks to a sharp decline during the first three months of the financial year, however, with new complaints rising throughout the last nine months.

Mobile made up 36.6 percent of all complaints, down by 10 percentage points from last year; landline complaints were up by 1 percentage point, to make up 28.8 percent of all new complaints; and complaints about internet services were up by 9 percentage points, to 34.6 percent.

A breakdown by issues saw billing and payments make up 41.6 percent of all new complaints; customer service account for 38.6 percent; faults 34.1 percent; complaint handling 30.4 percent; contracts 21.9 percent; connections 14.2 percent; credit management 14.1 percent; and other issues 5.5 percent.

Of all fixed-line complaints, 48 percent pertained to slow internet data speed; 37.6 percent to new internet connection delays; 23.8 percent to new landline connection delays; 19.2 percent to an internet service being fully unusable; 19 percent to internet drop-outs; and 5.8 percent to fully unusable landlines.

"Consumers told us that slow data speed was the biggest problem with internet services," Jones said.

"New complaints about internet data speed increased by 48 percent.

"Consumers also made an increased number of complaints about long waits for connections and repairing unreliable services."

Victoria took the dubious mantle of being the biggest complainers, with 5.9 complaints per 1,000 people, followed by South Australia, at 5.34 complaints per 1,000 people; the Australian Capital Terriory, at 5.22 complaints per 1,000 people; NSW, at 5.21 complaints per 1,000 people; Queensland, at 4.8 complaints per 1,000 people; Tasmania, at 4.42 complaints per 1,000 people; Western Australia, at 4.16 complaints per 1,000 people; and the Northern Territory, at 3.83 complaints per 1,000 people.

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