NBN Co facing fines for missed set-up appointments

The company behind the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been warned that it faces financial penalties for missing set-up appointments.

NBN Co has been told by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that if technicians fail to make appointments within a reasonable timeframe, it could be forced to pay fines.

NBN Co has recently come under increased scrutiny about set-up times and costs, adding to the list of controversies that have plagued the network’s rollout.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims told the ABC’s National Wrap program that penalties may be enforced on NBN Co for missing setup appointments with retail customers.

“[The regulation] will go to people turning up when they say they’ll turn up, and penalties if that doesn’t happen,” Mr Sims said.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) recently reported that there were more than 82,000 missed NBN appointments in the 2016 calendar year. There is little information about official penalty figures, but reports suggest a $25 fine may be applied per missed connection.

However, the money will not be paid to the customer as compensation. Instead, it will go to the customer’s service provider, such as Telstra or Optus.

The issue of missed set-up appointments adds to a long list of NBN-related issues, including concerns surrounding advertised speeds, which is the subject of an inquiry launched by the ACCC in November 2017. However, unlike set-up tardiness, speed issues do not just fall to the NBN Co, according to Mr Sims.

“What we’ve found is that the retailers were selling services that the NBN couldn’t deliver… [If] you are buying 50 or 100Mbps, the NBN often can’t deliver that on fibre to the node (FTTN). We argue that ISPs knew that… and have taken the money for a service that hasn’t been delivered,” he said.

The Government intends for the NBN to produce a return on investment for taxpayers when it is privatised after its rollout is completed in 2020.

What do users think of their NBN service?

A recent Canstar Blue survey found that two-thirds of NBN customers (65%) described their new internet service as superior to their old ADSL or cable connection, with 45% paying more now than they did with their old service.

Almost three-quarters of survey respondents (73%) said they switched to the NBN as soon as it was available in their area, while 36% took the opportunity switch service providers.

The survey also identified the key drivers of customer satisfaction, with network performance found to be the most crucial, followed by value for money and customer service.

Customers reported average NBN costs of $78 a month.

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