Economy

NBN complaints more than double, a 'cause for concern': Ombudsman

NBN complaints more than double, a 'cause for concern': Ombudsman”

The Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has published its annual report for 2016-17, revealing that complaints about the National Broadband Network (NBN) have increased by nearly 160 percent, while all telecommunications complaints rose by 41 percent during the year.

After three consecutive years in which the number of complaints from WA fell, 2016/17 financial year saw a massive spike - with an increase of 49.1 per cent.

"Optus has a number of options for customers to have their complaints addressed - including Yes Crowd, live chat, online support, via phone as well as a through a dedicated Social Media Response Team".

Complaints about NBN services have more than doubled since previous year, with internet problems outnumbering mobile phone complaints for the first time.

Mandurah was the suburb with the most complaints, with 469, followed by Armadale with 393.

While the TIO usually equates rising NBN complaints to the accelerating rollout, this time Ombudsman Judi Jones said the numbers are concerning.

"It doesn't seem to be any single factor", Ms Jones said.

"Consumers and small businesses are increasingly reliant on technology to stay connected to be educated and run businesses".

"There's nothing that's a standout issue".

"This work is being reflected in a 13.6 percent decline in overall TIO complaints between July to September 2017 and a 26.3 percent decline in TIO complaints about landline and internet services over the same period".

Just under 50 per cent of all complaints were about Telstra, while another 20 per cent concerned the NBN, found the Ombudsman's annual report being released today, which showed consumers are paying a big price for the rollout of the national network.

Compared to previous year, complaints were up 159 percent.

"For the first time, complaints about internet services are now higher than complaints about mobile phones", Jones said.

"This includes an increase in complaints about connection delays and reliability issues such as faults".

"The picture the complaints show is we are frustrated when we can not rely on technology to stay connected, to be informed, and to do business", Ms Jones said.

"First step is complain to the provider, talk to them and explain carefully what the issues are, and what they believe reasonable resolutions would be, and then work with the provider to resolve the issue", she said.

Narelle Clark, the deputy director of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said a huge increase in customer service problems across all services showed improved consumer protections was needed.

"It's our job to resolve complaints and we're getting on and doing it".

It also noted that less than 15 percent of complaints about the NBN were actually directed at NBN Co.

"We acknowledge that the increase in complaints to the TIO about services delivered over the NBN access network in the 2016/17 financial year is regrettable", it said.

Responding to the Ombudsman report, NBN's chief executive Bill Morrow said complaints reported to the Ombudsman accounted for 1 per cent of activated premises.

"We are working with retail service providers and industry as a priority to improve these figures and the overall experience for consumers", the statement read.

"There is a direct correlation between the speed of the rollout and the increase in complaints - while the business is taking this very seriously and working to improve the customer experience, it is an unfortunate reality of such a fast-paced infrastructure build".



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