NBN Complaints Have Doubled In 2016: TIO

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Customer complaints about NBN connections are up by 63 per cent, and complaints about NBN line faults are up nearly 150 per cent, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's 2015-16 annual report released today. The NBN now accounts for almost 12 per cent of TIO complaints, but there's also a good side to the news: we're not complaining as much about our mobile and landline telephones any more.

2015-16 saw the lowest level of complaints about mobile connections in nine years, in fact, according to the TIO. Landline complaints are also down. Telstra and Vodafone saw drops in TIO objection rates -- by 3.2 per cent and a massive 59.5 per cent respectively -- but Optus, iiNet and TPG bore the brunt of telco complaints with 18.2 per cent, 48.2 per cent and 7.4 per cent rises in TIO contact from customers respectively.

The TIO will only open a dispute if customers first try to resolve their issue with the telco directly, suggesting poor internal customer service could be responsible for the large rises in complaints at Optus and iiNet. Billing and payments is still the most popular reason for complaints, with customer service and faults ranking second and third respectively. Victorians complain the most and NT residents the least, but it's always customers in major cities that make the majority of the noise.

But it's the massive jump in NBN complaints -- primarily for faults, but also around connections themselves -- that the TIO is calling out this year. Slow data speeds, whether either from network congestion during peak usage periods or from customers' expectations of the NBN network not being met on variable-speed copper-based services like fibre to the node, were the primary reason for TIO contact. Long waits for NBN connections and repairs were also up in the TIO's log books.

Lobby group Internet Australia says that while it believes the national broadband network company's claims that the increase in complaints come from an increased number of connections, it's also seeing that customers are confused about what quality of service they should receive. IA CEO Laurie Patton says that while fibre to the node is used, customer experience will still be inconsistent and that fibre to the driveway is the future. "Using FTTdp is a significant improvement and in our opinion this should become the default technology for those areas currently slated for FTTN.

"The sooner this happens the better. When construction of the NBN is completed, currently scheduled for 2020, premises using FTTN will be stuck with a second rate service that will need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years' time."

Australia's mobile networks are on the mend, though, and the TIO points to higher data allowances and better mobile tower infrastructure as being largely responsible. [TIO]

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