Telcos offering NBN connections need to up their game from today, or risk heavy fines. With the NBN rollout being plagued with problems on all sides, ACMA is seeking to protect consumers from the seemingly all-too-common experience of being left high and dry without any internet while trying to switch over to the NBN - among other problems.
Just like the ACCC, ACMA is fighting to get telcos to treat customers right when it comes to switching services over to the NBN. As anyone who's had to go through that process may know, it's a tough job, but ACMA's Chair has vowed that they are "absolutely focused on the implementation of safeguards and protections for consumers during their move to services delivered over the NBN."
The ACCC has put telcos on notice in a year where it feels like it's had to pull them up on misleading advertising every week. Its latest salvo warns companies to make sure their advertising is clear and not misleading - threatening vastly increased penalties for companies that mess up.
The final set of rules have been finalised today, as part of a process that has been put in place over the last six months - getting ready for the peak NBN rollout period. Under these rules, telcos must:
- give consumers the information they need to choose an NBN plan
- confirm that their new NBN service is working
- provide an interim service to the consumer or reconnect their old service if there are delays getting the new NBN service working
- move swiftly to resolve complaints, drawing in other companies in the NBN service supply chain where necessary to stop ‘buck-passing’ of complaints between providers and NBN Co.
These rules will be enforced by the ACMA, with court proceedings and fines of up to $10 million to follow for companies who are found to be in breach. "With the new rules in place, the ACMA will now turn its attention to industry compliance," said ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin.
"Our preliminary findings indicate that telcos still have a long way to go to comply with these new complaints-handling rules," said Ms O'Loughlin. "Formal investigations into a number of providers are ongoing and we will publish a report on these once finalised."
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has also weighed in on the new rules, as another industry body that deals with complaints from telco customers. "The ACMA’s rules give clear guidance to telcos about its expectations under the new rules, and provides a strong framework to resolve problems if these arise," Ombudsman Judi Jones said. "We will take the ACMA’s new rules into account when dealing with complaints."
The TIO reminds consumers including small businesses that they should try to resolve complaints with their telco first, but if that doesn't work they can take it to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.