NBN complaints to the TIO triple

The NBN is more than half way built

The Australian Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) on 17 April released its latest complaints figures for the six months ending December last year, revealing a 204 per cent surge in National Broadband Network (NBN)-related complaints from July to December 2017, compared to the same period the year prior.

Of the NBN-related complaints, 14,055 were about service quality (our guess is that many of those were about internet speeds that were lower than expected from the complainants' plans), and 8,757 concerned problems in establishing a connection.

"While our industry is dealing with disruption, in part caused by the significant increase in NBN connections and migration to the network, we are disappointed with the high level of complaints in the second half of 2017", Communications Alliance director of program management Christiane Gillespie-Jones said.

Where 4.5 complaints were received for every 1000 activated premises during the second half of 2016, that figure rose to 6.7 in the second half of 2017.

"Our recording of the issues is now based on six broad categories that follow the lifecycle of a residential consumer or small business' relationship with their provider", Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

It's pretty easy to take a swipe at the NBN, of course, but during the same period a year ago, general internet services were the most complained about issue for consumers.

She added that wider issues relating to phone or internet problems such as debt management are "concerning". Even though the numbers are still growing strongly, the rate of growth has eased slightly from the 33.8% reported for 2H16.


Rather than focusing on the year-on-year increase in complaints, NBN pointed to a 16 percent drop-off over the previous six-month period, in addition to the fact that less than 5 percent of the complaints made to the TIO were sent to NBN to resolve. The remaining 238 came from not for profit organisations. Complaints from customers who had more than one phone or internet service was the highest at 30.8 percent, while complaints about damage or access to property was 0.8 percent.

New South Wales had the highest total complaints with 26,914, up 27.9 percent, followed by Victoria's 23,954 complaints, or a 30.5 percent increase. Complaints about mobile phone services (29.4%) and internet services (28%) were close behind.

Comparisons with the pattern of complaints in 2H16 can not be made due to changes in the TIO's categories.

Complaints may involve more than one issue, but it does seem that providers are making a rod for their own backs by failing to deal with customers' complaints properly and promptly.

The biggest gripe? Provider response, suggesting that ISPs are being a little coy when it comes to helping once they've got you on your contract but poor service quality sits in second place with nearly 40 percent of complaints showing the NBN itself still has a ways to go before it can claim it is delivering the internet that Australians are clamouring for.

Again, the TIO has changed the complaint categories, so direct comparisons can not be made with 2H16.

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