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Telcos including Aussie Broadband hit by ACMA on customer information issues

A septuplet of telcos found to be supplying customers with incorrect or missing information.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Seven of Australia's telcos have become the first to be fined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under new NBN customer standards that took affect in September 2018.

Those fined are Aussie Broadband, Activ8me, Flip TV, Hello Broadband, Mate Communicate, My Net Fone, and Telechoice, with ACMA walking away with the princely sum of AU$88,200 in total.

ACMA authority member Fiona Cameron claimed the fines send a "strong message" to telcos.

"Our Standard requires telcos to provide clear and meaningful information about their NBN plans in one-page key facts sheet and in their advertising," Cameron said.

"Failing to give consumers clear and honest information about NBN plans is unacceptable and can lead to misleading conduct."

The telcos were found by ACMA to not be providing correct information to customers on key facts sheets (KFS). For instance, in its investigation [PDF] into Aussie Broadband, ACMA found the telco advertised plans under the monikers "Family" and "Everyday" but the KFS referred to speed tiers, and did not inform customers that the stated off-peak speeds were maximum speeds.

"Telcos have had ample time to familiarise themselves and ensure compliance with the NBN rules," Cameron said.

"Failure to comply in this late stage of the NBN rollout is not acceptable and warranted stronger action."

Under the Telecommunications (NBN Consumer Information) Industry Standard 2018, RSPs are to fulfil minimum requirements for providing information on data speeds, online usage, technical limitations, medical alarm services, and security alarm services.

The standard also provides for advertising guidelines, the provision of advice to consumers about NBN services, and the requirement to keep records.

Last week, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) revealed that telemarketers are using scare tactics to pressure consumers into signing up to NBN contracts they don't want, need, or can't afford.

During 2018, residential consumers and small businesses made 1,729 complaints to the TIO in relation to these misleading conduct by telemarketers of NBN services.

The report revealed the misleading telemarketing practices had been particularly felt by older consumers, some of whom do not use internet at home, which the Ombudsman said is consistent with research by ACMA that found there is a lower understanding about connecting to the NBN among those who are 65 years or older.

In July, ACMA released its latest Telecommunications complaints handling report-- which takes data from the 30 telco service providers that have over 30,000 services in operation -- showed a 62% jump in non-NBN fixed broadband complaints from 204 per 10,000 services in operation in the quarter ended September, to 331 complaints per 10,000 services for the quarter ended December.

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