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Telcos could face $10M fines for failing to deliver on NBN

Australia's communications regulator will require telcos to meet higher standards when advertising NBN services, connecting users and handling complaints.


Australian telcos are not serving their customers well when they get connected to the NBN and they need to lift their game.

That's the assessment of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) which announced on Thursday new rules for enforcing how internet service providers connect their customers to the NBN and report complaints when there's an issue.

From 1 July, 2018, telcos will need to meet new standards, including "line testing" to make sure user connections are working and capable of delivering NBN, and meeting a minimum standard for handling complaints.

It's a scheme that will provide some reassurance to the tens of thousands of customers who have complained about their internet and phone services over the past year.

In October, the industry ombudsman announced there'd be a 159 percent rise in complaints about the NBN during the 2016-17 financial year (compared to the year before). Since the start of November, the ACCC has forced Telstra, Optus and TPG to compensate customers for selling NBN speeds their customers had no hope of achieving on their connections.

"Many telcos are not stepping up to get the right information to consumers and resolve migration issues quickly and effectively," said ACMA chair, Nerida O'Loughlin.

"The rollout of the new network presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve broadband services for all Australians. We think it is high time that telcos stepped up to help consumers migrate seamlessly so that they can make the most of that opportunity."

According to the ACMA, the new rules will:

  • Specify the minimum information that telcos must provide about their network services before they sign consumers up
  • Specify minimum standards for telcos' complaints-handling processes and a requirement for telcos to report their complaint numbers to the ACMA so that changes can be monitored
  • Require telcos to "line test" new services on the network to ensure that lines are working and that faults are identified early
  • Require consumers to be reconnected to legacy network services, if that fall-back is needed until their new network service is successfully connected

If telcos don't comply, the ACMA will be able to enforce the rules, take issues to court and seek civil penalties of up to AU$10 million.

The rules are open for industry comment and are slated to be introduced by 1 July next year. 

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