The ACCC Is Coming After Dodgy Broadband Speed Claims

Image: nbn

Finding it difficult to make sense of providers' broadband speed promises? You're not alone in Australia, and the ACCC has promised to help.

Finding it difficult to make sense of providers' broadband speed promises? You're not alone in Australia, and the ACCC has promised to help.

Recent research by the ACCC reveals that 80 per cent of fixed broadband consumers are confused by the jargon around speeds offered by retail service providers (RSPs) such as Telstra, TPG and Optus.

In the consultation of more than 400 participants, consumers suggested they want broadband speed information in a simple, standardised format so they can more easily compare providers.

The research was motivated by a 48 per cent increase in complaints to the ombudsman over fixed and mobile broadband speeds, which became the largest issue for complaints during 2015-16, the commission said.

"The ACCC is concerned that the use of vague speed claims is not providing consumers accurate, comparable, or useful information ... causing a high level of complaints, confusion, and dissatisfaction," chairman Rod Sims said.

The commission has published guidance principles and promised to consult further on the implementation of findings to help ensure RSPs don't mislead consumers under Australian Consumer Law.

It has also said it will begin monitoring providers' speed claims, with mixed responses from telcos.

In their submissions many providers were, unsurprisingly, not pleased with the prospect of intervention by the ACCC.

Telstra deemed the monitoring of its speeds unnecessary, instead suggesting accountability via a market solution, while TPG flatly opposed any regulation at all.

Other players in the industry, however, have been more welcoming.

"We are delighted that the ACCC has called the traditional telcos to account for fudging their internet download speeds. ISPs need a complete rethink and an "un-telco" approach," said Luke Clifton, group executive at Macquarie Telecom.

The dissatisfaction among consumers comes amid growing unease around the NBN network roll-out.

At the start of the year, NBN removed speed guidelines from its website.

Since then, NBN providers have been less confident to specify available speeds when spruiking their services, further heightening confusion for consumers.

In response, Telstra announced it will begin publishing the speeds of its NBN service in April.

"Not all experiences are the same, not all NBN services are the same," Telstra chief executive Andy Penn told News Corp recently.

"The industry should be publishing the speeds that they are delivering. What's critical is that the industry comes along on that journey so there's no game-playing."

Here's the full announcement from the ACCC:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission consultation on fixed broadband speeds has found eighty percent of consumers are confused and want broadband speed information to be presented in a simple, standardised format to enable them to easily compare offers.

The ACCC has today published principles to help ensure internet service providers’ claims about broadband speeds aren’t misleading under the Australian Consumer Law.

“The ACCC is concerned that the use of vague speed claims is not providing consumers accurate, comparable, or useful information. Four out of five consumers have trouble comparing broadband speeds and this is causing a high level of complaints, confusion, and dissatisfaction,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“Consumers believe they aren’t getting what they sign up for, and pay for, when it comes to home internet speeds. It is time the industry met consumer demand for accurate information about broadband speeds so consumers can compare offers and make informed decisions about their internet services.”

The ACCC has developed six principles to guide ISPs on best practice marketing when it comes to broadband speeds, including how to make a clear statement on the typical speeds consumers can expect during busy hours.

ISPs should make accurate information about broadband speeds available to consumers during sales processes and on their websites to help consumers compare plans, identify how various applications will perform (including video streaming), and provide customers with support if the service falls short of expected speeds.

“The ACCC has listened to the views of consumers and industry in identifying the fundamental areas of concern and developing principles by which to resolve them. The ACCC will now work with industry and issue more detailed guidelines to ensure they are able to use this framework to provide better information to their customers. It’s the first step of a longer-term plan to bring about meaningful change,” Mr Sims said.

“Greater transparency around broadband speeds will enable consumers to make clearer comparisons on product choices, further encourage ISPs to compete on speed and save consumers money.”

The ACCC consultation received more than 400 responses from consumers and industry participants on its discussion paper last year. In addition to the principles published today, the ACCC will publish a best-practice broadband speeds advertising guide for providers in the coming months.

The ACCC is also in discussion with the Federal government about the possible introduction of a fixed broadband performance monitoring and reporting (BPMR) program in Australia.


This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments

    Good. Recently sweet tched from Telstra to Optus due to pricing, only to experience some of the worst speeds ever. During peak periods I'll average maybe 4mbps on their speed test, off peak and the average is about 8mbps, with the basic plan supposed to deliver 12mbps.

    Highest speed achieved after approx. 100 tests over a 2 month period was 10mbps, with the lowest 0.5mbps; problem is we've hot 10 once and 0.5 more like once a week.

    Can't come soon enough. The telco's advertising mantra of "Up to xxx MB/Mb ps" is so shonky it's not funny.

    In my experience, you *can* get their advertised xxx Mbps, it's just that it tends to happen between 03:05 and 03:07 on alternate Wednesday mornings. At all other times it tends to be about 0.1 of xxx.

      The solution is simple.
      ACCC outlaws "up to".
      ACCC requires all RSPs to provide "at least" measurements to allow direct comparisons between RSPs.

        Better idea: 3rd and 4th regulation amendments
        - ACCC requires all telcos to provide accurate information in advance of a contract being established regarding the sync speed of the connection to the building to which the contract is being supplied.
        - ACCC requires all RSPs to supply sufficient bandwidth through the backend to cover average peak-time usage, with regular reports from telcos on all complaints received regarding failure to meet sync speeds including times and dates of the alleged incidents.

        Last edited 18/02/17 6:35 am

    A move in the right direction.

    In a perfect world, I would like the signup to go like this:

    1) Request service from ISP
    2) ISP setup customer account along with username and password
    3) ISP perform speed test
    4) ISP provide results and recommended packages
    5) Customer decides on how they would like to proceed
    6) ISP record speed results for the premise in a database which is shared among ISPs.

    Blame the Libs & FTTN for this bullshit!
    100/40 on FTTP is 100/40
    100/40 on FTTN can be anywhere from 1/1 to 100/40

    now we just have to wait for them to make it as fast as its should to be

    Im actually more concerned about the fudging of their download amounts.

    I changed from TPG at my old house to Telstra. TPG even with a heavy month of PS4 game downloads when I got my new PS Pro, didn't hit 120GB, now Im regularly near 200GB at the end of every month with similar activity minus the PS downloads....

    Something isn't right. But my line and wifi is secure so nobody is getting some one the side, so its a "please explain?"

      what about uploads? what have you done to "secure your wifi" do you have a firewall on your PC's that monitor ALL traffic inbound and out. do you have any "smart / IoT" devices on your network?

      You also pay for hackers trying to get into your network. That can add up to a lot of bandwidth.

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