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Two thirds of consumers not taking up NBN compensation offer: ACCC

Over 142,000 consumers are eligible for refunds due to receiving slower-than-advertised speeds from RSPs, with two thirds of these refunds still not claimed.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

Two out of three consumers that are eligible for refunds from retail service providers (RSPs) for receiving slower-than-advertised speeds are yet to claim them, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Among the RSPs providing refunds are Telstra, Optus, TPG, iiNet, Internode, Dodo, iPrimus, and Commander. These RSPs advertised and sold NBN plans with maximum theoretical speeds, such as 100 megabits per second (Mbps) download speeds and 40 Mbps upload speeds, that some consumers never experienced due to the limitations of FttN and FttB technologies.

The refunds came after the RSPs accepted enforceable undertakings from the ACCC to compensate the 142,000 consumers affected by the false or misleading representations regarding internet speeds.

RSPs have contacted eligible consumers, offering options such as moving to a cheaper, lower-speed plan or exiting their contract and receiving a refund.

The refunds amount to hundreds of dollars for some consumers, ACCC Acting Chair Mick Keogh said.

"The ACCC is urging NBN customers to contact their NBN retailer if they have received a letter or email offer of a remedy, or think they might be entitled to a remedy."

Consumers who have recently signed up to a new NBN plan may also be eligible for a refund where the RSP advertises maximum connection speeds with the plan.

"Our message to RSPs is that if you advertise a particular connection speed and customers cannot experience that speed, you risk breaching the Australian Consumer Law," Keogh added.

"We expect RSPs to provide consumers with accurate information up front about the internet speeds they can expect to experience, and then deliver on those promises."

In response to these speed issues, new NBN migration rules were introduced in July by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), requiring RSPs to perform line tests and copper speed tests for FttB, FttC, and FttN connections

If the tests indicate a connection is not up to par, consumers will be given the option to move to a lower-speed tier plan, or exit their contract and be refunded.

"These new rules will give consumers greater confidence that their telco will make sure their new NBN service will work as expected and provide options if their connection doesn't work," ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said at the time.

These new NBN migration rules came into force in August, with the federal government agency's powers backed up by the ability to commence court proceedings to seek injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$10 million.

Publishing its compliance and enforcement statement of approach that month, the ACMA also said the new migration rules will ensure consumers have better access to information on NBN services, are given backup options if services are not working, and have complaints addressed faster and more effectively.

TomTom, Navman, and Garmin to remove 'lifetime' claims

TomTom, Navman, and Garmin will stop using 'lifetime' claims in their advertisements of consumer GPS products following concerns being raised by the ACCC that these statements were potentially false, misleading, or deceptive.

The three manufacturers each made statements with 'lifetime claims' in their marketing. Examples of these statements include TomTom's 'LifeTime TomTom Traffic', Navtimes' 'Lifetime FreeMaps' and Garmin's 'Free Lifetime Maps & Traffic'.

Despite these statements, the navigation tech companies still had discretion to stop these services before the end of lifetime under certain circumstances. The ACCC asserted that these limitations were not communicated clearly enough to consumers.

"We believe the statements about 'lifetime' services made by these GPS manufacturers were inconsistent with what consumers would understand 'lifetime' to mean," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

"Consumers would have rightly expected to receive those services for the lifetime of the device, without the manufacturer being able to unilaterally terminate the commitment."

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