Aussie Broadband suggests NBN Co pay $150 for missed appointments

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Aussie Broadband suggests NBN Co pay $150 for missed appointments

Instead of current $25 rebate.

NBN Co should be forced to pay “closer to $150” every time its technicians miss a scheduled appointment, according to Aussie Broadband managing director Phillip Britt.

Britt raised the prospect in an early response to new draft service standards for NBN Co laid out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday.

“We believe it should reflect the true cost to the customer rather than just act as an NBN incentive, given customers often take time off - including annual leave - to attend appointments,” Britt said in a statement.

The ACCC set a $25 fee per missed appointment in September last year, and today said it wanted to raise that to $75 sometime in 2020.

“NBN Co must attend premises at the appointment time, during the appointment window or within 15 minutes after the appointment time or window, and may only change appointment times or windows in limited circumstances,” the ACCC said.

“If NBN Co does not attend the appointment, that appointment is considered to have been missed.”

The ACCC noted today that parties other than Aussie Broadband, such as the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), had argued for a missed appointment fee greater than $75.

The commission said $100 “would provide strong incentives to NBN Co and recognise the impacts on individual consumers”, but indicated the fine “does not necessarily need to be set at that level to achieve those objectives.”

Additionally, the ACCC said it had “taken into account the potential cost impact on NBN Co based on the confidential data it provided”.

However, it noted that it was open to other opinions on whether to charge NBN Co more than $75 each time an appointment was missed.

“We seek stakeholder views on whether the proposed $75 rebate for each missed appointment is appropriate and whether a higher rebate (e.g. $100) would be justified,” it said.

RSP responses mixed

Britt broadly welcomed a range of other rebates proposed by the ACCC today, which would force NBN Co to pay out daily on delayed or faulty connections, and monthly to users stuck with congested or underperforming services.

“At first glance, we are very happy with the proposals put forward by the ACCC,” Britt said.

Telstra also welcomed the rebates.

"We see this draft decision as the first step in the right direction towards regulating NBN Co’s monopoly infrastructure," a Telstra spokesperson said.

"We’re reviewing the draft decision in detail and we’ll provide a submission in time for the deadline."

But it appears not all of NBN Co’s retail service providers are happy with the ACCC’s rebate-heavy response to concerns about service standards on the NBN.

“We welcome the ACCC’s efforts to improve NBN service levels by setting clearer standards and incentives for NBN to improve its wholesale performance,” Optus’ vice president of regulatory and public affairs Andrew Sheridan said.

“Whilst it’s a step in the right direction, the industry collectively has more to do to lift our game. 

“Paying out rebates should become the exception not the norm as we need to get things right the first time.”

NBN Co has already suggested that RSPs could simply pocket the rebates without passing them on to end users.

“We are concerned the draft determination announced today by the ACCC will not drive the right improvements in customer experience and could lead to unintended consequences if rebates are not passed onto consumers,” an NBN Co spokesperson said.

Britt said Aussie Broadband already “passes on all rebates in full to its customers and will continue to do so.”

The ACCC's proposal for punitive rebates payable by NBN Co adopts a structure suggested by Telstra.

Telstra had asked the ACCC to consider structuring rebates whereby $25 was charged “per day for the first five business days of a service level miss, rising to $50 per day thereafter.” 

The ACCC did not agree with that quantum of fees (instead maxing out at $30 a day for lengthy fault rectifications), but largely adopted the structure of rising fees for ongoing issues.

Where the money will come from to pay higher rebates has been an open question. Both NBN Co and the government have warned they might have to recover the costs from consumers via wholesale fees.

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