The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced a public inquiry into NBN wholesale service standards with a view to probe whether the quality of service being delivered is appropriate or requires greater regulatory intervention.
The inquiry will focus on the ability to enforce appropriate service standard levels at a wholesale level, including compensation for retail customers when certain expected standards are not met.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the competition watchdog was "very concerned" about the number of complaints from consumers around poor customer experiences, particularly regarding NBN services and fault remediation.
“Many of these complaints relate to matters set out in wholesale service level standards. We will examine whether the service levels that are currently in place are appropriate and effective," he said.
"This is important as what happens at the wholesale level often flows through to the retail level and affects customer experiences."
Service standards between the NBN and its wholesale customers (RSPs) are set out in commercial agreements negotiated between those parties. The agreements include performance objectives and operational targets, requirements to correct unmet service levels and methods for which customers can claim compensation or rebates in the event of NBN Co failing to meet a specific service level.
“One of the main focuses of our inquiry will be whether there are appropriate incentives for NBN Co to remedy service failures, along with the adequacy of compensation available to wholesale customers, to ensure consumers in turn are provided appropriate redress when things go wrong,” Sims said.
“While our inquiry will focus on NBN wholesale service levels, we will examine them in the context of the supply chain. We are also concerned that some service levels at the retail level are not enforceable. If we identify other changes to aspects of the supply chain that will improve customer experiences on the NBN, we will certainly highlight them."
The announcement follows a damning report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, which revealed an almost 160 percent increase in NBN related consumer complaints in the past year. Most of the grievances surrounded delays in connections missed appointments and fault rectification.
Sims said the issues were likely to magnify as the scale of the NBN rollout increases unless dealt with now.
“We will consider what wholesale service standard levels are required to improve customer experiences. We also believe increased transparency around service outcomes and clear consequences and redress options where standards are not met, by those best placed to manage the risk, will be important,” Sims said.
The ACCC will conduct the inquiry in close liaison with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which has been looking into how broadband supply chain issues effect outcomes at a retail level.
The NBN's wholesale providers are:
LOGICIT (Geraldton Only)