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NBN admits telling Canberrans they needed to move off TransACT when they didn't

Broadband wholesaler to pay costs of moving off network and back for customers and ACT carrier.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

An NBN FttN node getting a Nokia line card installed

Image: Corinne Reichert/ZDNet

The company responsible for deploying the National Broadband Network (NBN) across Australia has entered into a court enforceable undertaking with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over its conduct during the first half of 2019 in the Australian Capital Territory.

NBN has admitted it sent a number of pieces of direct mail to customers of the TPG-owned TransACT network -- an existing fibre to the node network that competes with NBN -- that they needed to get off the network and shift to the NBN.

The notices initially told customers that if they did not disconnect and move to the NBN, they would be "left without phone, internet and other important services, including medical, fire and security alarms".

By the time the fifth wave of communication was mailed out, the letters were increasingly shrill.

"URGENT: action required to keep your phone and internet services active," a notice said. "Order an NBN powered plan before affected phone and internet services are disconnected from [date]"

"IMPORTANT NOTICE. Most existing phone and internet services in [suburb] are being switched off from [date]."

Alongside the mail, NBN maintained a switchoff page where it said TransACT customers in the territory would be moved across to the NBN.

NBN has undertaken to pay back early termination fees paid by consumers and businesses that moved to NBN before 10 July 2019 and subsequently returned to TransACT, send a corrective letter to those who received its earlier communications, as well as issue corrective notices in media and Facebook.

"We previously advised people in the ACT that they were likely to need to switch to the NBN if they wanted to keep a fixed line voice and/or internet service," the NBN letter will say.

"It has come to our attention that the advice was wrong for people connected to the TransACT VDSL2 network.

"This applied mostly to iiNet customers. The TransACT VDSL2 network is widely available in the ACT and will continue to be available as an alternative to the NBN."

On its own site for a period of two years, NBN will maintain a list of networks that will continue to operate once the NBN rollout is over.

TPG, as the owner of TransACT, will receive at least AU$20,000 for the costs of "correcting NBN Co's disconnection communications," the ACCC said.

"It is unacceptable for NBN Co to tell consumers on other broadband networks such as the TransACT Network that moving to the NBN is their only option, when that is just not correct," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.

"Moving to the NBN is an important decision and it can be confusing. Consumers should be able to trust that NBN Co is providing them with accurate information."

"The ACCC will not hesitate to seek high penalties in court against NBN, and other telcos, if we see this type of conduct again."

Earlier on Tuesday, Aussie Broadband said it had seen almost 2,300 customers take up its 1Gbps speeds, offered since Friday, and 850 customers move onto its 250Mbps tier.

"We smashed our previous Saturday, Sunday and Monday sales records by between 8-10%," Aussie Broadband managing director Phil Britt said.

"We think that the plan should achieve off-peak speeds of up to 80-90%, depending on the technology type."

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