NBN Complaints Are Up By 204%, Now There’s A ‘Reform’ Coming – Sound Familiar?

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“The Australian Government’s regulation reform agenda will provide a platform to modernise regulatory frameworks and ensure consumer safeguards remain relevant and effective in the contemporary environment”

“The Government will also examine the overall consumer safeguards framework to ensure that regulations are fit-for-purpose and take into account ongoing developments in communications technology.”

“The Government is proposing that reform of telecommunications consumer safeguards is undertaken in parallel with the Productivity Commission’s inquiry.”

These three statements were uttered by our Federal Government overlords in response to NBN reviews and complaints in April 2014, February 2016 and August 2016. Now, following the revelation complaints to the TIO surged by 204 per cent, a new review of – you guessed it – “consumer safeguards” has been announced.

Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland says the consistent lack of action – and the announcement of a review first flagged two years ago – shows the Turnbull Government “only cares about one thing – the NBN spin cycle”.

Rowland points out that this announcement also comes after the government sat on the ACCC’s proposal to set up a speed monitoring program for 14 months.

“The existing model for complaints handling and redress is not working,” Communications and the Arts Senator Mitch Fifield said today.

“What the Minister meant to say was the Turnbull Government has not been working,” Rowald said in response. “Consumers deserve a government with an authentic and proactive commitment to their needs — not one who always places them second and third.”

The figures released today by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman show that over the 2017 calendar year NBN complaints to the TIO rose by 204 per cent – despite the number of new NBN activations only increasing by 105 per cent over that same period.

Communications Alliance Director Program Management, Christiane Gillespie-Jones, says the review is “overdue, and industry is keen to engage closely with relevant stakeholders on all parts of the review to produce an efficient and fit-for-purpose framework for consumer safeguards – including through the use of updated Industry Codes.”

“Of course, we are not satisfied with the high numbers of complaints that we are currently seeing, and industry recognises that more needs to be done to improve the overall customer experience. We also have to take into account the current once-in-a-generation transformation of communications delivery platforms, which bring transitional disruption along with long-term benefits to telecommunications users.”

Gillespie-Jones says we need to ensure that any policy settings adopted now are effective in the long term – while not creating unnecessary regulatory burden and costs for consumers after the rollout of the NBN has been completed.

Industry is working with the ACMA on a Complaint Handling Standard and other measures directed at complaint handling performance and an improved NBN migration experience. The Communications Alliance says it is confident that “customer-centric measures devised through a concerted industry effort, including Government, regulators and consumer representatives, will have a positive impact on many areas of customer engagement and customer experience”.

Communications Alliance and its members are also in the process of revising the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code in consultation with consumer advocates, both regulators and Government.

It is expected that the revised Code will be submitted to the ACMA for registration and enforcement in spring this year.

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