In a classic case of "shoot the messenger", the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Mitch Fifield has suggested that the way the TIO reports complaints about the NBN is flawed and needs to be reviewed, despite this being the same way they have reported data for several years. Of course the big difference is that the subject of the complaints, the NBN, is a constant thorn in the government's side and bad numbers make the people responsible for the policy decisions for the current rollout plan feel bad.
The Minister's complaint stems from the way the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has presented the numbers. Here's what the Minister's response says:
The TIO notes this a 28.7% percent increase in complaints – however, the TIO has calculated this against the July-December 2016 period, not the preceding 6 month (January to June 2017) period. When you compare against the preceding 6 month period (92,046 total complaints from January to June 2017) complaints actually decreased by 7.75%.
In other words, complaints in the second half of 2017 were lower than the first half of the year but up on the corresponding reporting period the year before.
Unfortunately, it seems the Minister, or his advisors didn't read the Ombudsman's message on the first page of the report. This is where the Ombudsman, Judi Jones, said:
My office has continued to receive high levels of complaints, with 84,914 complaints received over the six month period. This represents a 28.7% increase compared to the same period in 2016.
Complaints have decreased from 92,046 complaints in the preceding six month period, January – June 2017. However, to account for the seasonality of complaints activity this update compares data to the July - December 2016.
It's important to note that in the midst of a highly politicised project, the TIO hasn't added any emotive or political commentary to their numbers. All they've said is
- There were 84,914 complaints received about the NBN during the second half of 2017 (note, the report is clear in saying the complaints are about the NBN and not NBN Co)
- This is a decrease from 92,046 during the fist half of 2017
- This is an increase from 65,970 during the second half of 2016 (that's on page 9 of the report
In my view, this review into how the TIO presents its data is rubbish. The TIO presents data and provides some historical context. When you look at what the TIO show, they focus on:
- Who is making the complaints - breaking that into residential, small business and not for profit
- What they are companying about
- A state and territory breakdown of the data
- Some case studies about complaints they received
If the Minister's office and government think this is a record of complaints about NBN Co then either they haven't read the report or aren't capable of understanding the simple words in the report's executive summary.
Rather than wasting money on a pointless review of the TIO, and probably making the TIO's office waste their limited time and resources responding to the government instead of helping consumers, how about investing those dollars into something useful?