Complaints about NBN services look set to easily pass the mark set last financial year, though NBN Co says they represent far fewer problems it has to deal with directly.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) logged 22,827 gripes about “services delivered over the national broadband network” in the final six months of 2017.
To put that in perspective, the TIO received 27,195 NBN-related complaints in total from July 2016 to the end of June 2017.
In other words, NBN-related complaints in the current financial year are already at 83 percent of the previous financial year, after only six months.
The TIO, however, did note that a lot of the complaints growth was not about things within NBN Co’s direct control.
“The main issues affecting residential consumers and small businesses were unsatisfactory response from the provider (provider response), poor service quality, and connecting a service (connection/changing provider),” the ombudsman said in a statement.
NBN Co backed this up with a breakout of the 22,827 complaint number for the back half of 2017.
“Of the 22,827 complaints to the TIO about retail services delivered over the NBN access network from July to December 2017, less than five percent (1052 complaints) were sent to NBN Co to resolve,” it said.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) was less interested in which party was responsible for the complaint.
"Arguments about whether complaints are the responsibility of the wholesale provider (NBN Co) or retail service providers do not help consumers resolve these problems quickly," ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said in a statement.
Ombudsman Judi Jones expressed disappointment that “consumers still seem to be facing the same problems” as in prior years.
“Complaints about services delivered over the NBN continued to increase,” she said.
“This indicates the consumer experience is still not meeting expectations for all.
“Recent changes to regulation and an increase in our powers to resolve complaints are positive steps that will help improve the consumer experience.”
NBN Co is also investing heavily in a future of customer experience (FoCX) program of work to improve the experience users have on the network.
Changes to the company’s price structure - which become permanent next month - have helped alleviate issues for some users by guaranteeing minimum bandwidth during peak periods.
There is also evidence of NBN retail service providers buying more bandwidth generally, which should ensure more users also see an improvement in basic speeds.
NBN Co’s chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said there was more that could be done to reduce complaints.
“While the slowdown in the rate of complaints is encouraging, NBN Co acknowledges there is still more work to be done, particularly at this critical stage of the rollout as we balance prioritising customer experience without taking our foot off the construction pedal,” he said.
“We will continue to work with industry to improve those parts of the customer’s end-to-end experience within our control to reduce complaint volumes.”
Communications Alliance - which represents telcos and internet providers - said in a statement that complaints were also not solely directed at the NBN, highlighting problems more broadly.
It said that mobile represented 29 percent of all complaints, showing "the rollout of and migration to the NBN are not solely responsible for the increase in complaints, meaning that industry needs to address customer service and complaint handling more broadly."
In addition, it said that 31 percent of complaints involve "more than one service type, indicating that the telecommunications landscape is very complex and that often issues cannot be attributed to one single cause which may complicate resolution."