ACCC to scrutinise standard of NBN's wholesale services

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ACCC to scrutinise standard of NBN's wholesale services

End to the blame game once and for all?

The Australian competition regulator has launched a public inquiry into the standard of NBN Co's wholesale services following growing numbers of complaints from retail NBN users.

The ACCC has flagged the potential of regulating wholesale service levels to combat the user experience problems that have been steadily increasing.

Complaints about the NBN lodged with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman more than doubled in the past year. Most related to connection delays, fault rectification, and missed appointments.

A lack of clarity over who - NBN Co or the retailer - is responsible for rectifying certain problems has led to the parties blaming each other and failing to solve the problem for the end user in a timely manner.

The ACCC said it was concerned that these issues could affect a large number of people as the NBN rollout increases, "unless improvements are made now".

“We are very concerned about the high number of complaints from consumers around poor customer experiences, particularly in relation to customers connecting to NBN services and having faults repaired,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

“Many of these complaints relate to matters set out in wholesale service level standards."

Wholesale service standards are currently dictated by commercial agreements NBN Co has signed with its retail service provider partners.

They set out performance objectives and operational targets NBN Co's wholesale services are to meet, as well as the types of action that can be undertaken by RSPs if they are not met. The agreements also set out the compensation framework for wholesalers.

“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."

NBN Co last month revealed it was making a concerted effort to clear a "backlog" of aged support tickets filed by its retail service partners that had stacked up due to a dwindling focus on customer experience compared to the scale out of the build.

The ACCC said it would issue a consultation paper on the matter next month and seek views. The inquiry is scheduled to conclude in December 2018.

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