NBN plan marketing rules up for review this year

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NBN plan marketing rules up for review this year

Variations among RSPs set to be tested.

The ACCC will review its marketing guidelines for internet services this year, a move likely to lead to further adjustments in the way retail service providers apply the rules to their products.

The guidelines, which were first published in August last year following an industry consultation, show how RSPs should be marketing retail NBN services in particular.

They have already had a noticeable impact: most large RSPs now publish “typical” minimum speeds that end users can expect to see in the evening peak between 7pm and 11pm, providing a clearer indication of how services are likely to perform.

But there are already variations in how RSPs are using the guidelines.

A handful of RSPs have gone above expectations: Optus now publishes actual as well as typical NBN speeds, reviewed quarterly, and Telstra offers a breakout of fixed line and fixed wireless performance.

Others though still do not publish typical speeds and instead couch services in terms of what kind of workloads they would be able to support.

And iTnews revealed yesterday a new variance, with some RSPs believing the marketing guidelines apply only to fixed line NBN services, due to the wording of the guidelines.

That makes it difficult for customers in NBN Co’s fixed wireless footprint to work out what speeds they should be seeing.

The variances between how different RSPs comply with the guidelines is likely to be the focus of a review that an ACCC spokesperson told iTnews was scheduled to occur “this year”.

It appears the focus of the guidelines on fixed line - at the exclusion of other types of internet services - would be one area that the watchdog will seek to clarify.

The marketing guidelines state upfront that RSPs “should indicate, in their plan descriptions and when marketing broadband plans that they supply over the NBN and similar fixed-line based broadband access networks, the speeds at which the plans typically operate during the busy evening period".

However, this is more specific than the results of an industry consultation that was used to inform the direction of the guidelines.

The ACCC spokesperson indicated the intent of that process was not to create a situation where the rules were applicable to some broadband services but not others.

“We issued a report in early 2017 that contained six general principles that we believe RSPs should adopt when marketing broadband services,” the spokesperson said.

“The principles can be applied to all broadband technologies including fixed wireless.”

As it has done before, the ACCC said the marketing guidelines were not the set of rules that governed how broadband services could be advertised.

The watchdog said representations also needed to adhere to Australian consumer laws.

It is unclear whether the lack of breakout of typical speeds on fixed wireless is an issue in that regard, though the ACCC indicated it is looking into these types of questions.

“The ACCC has a number of investigations underway to ensure that telecommunications providers fully understand their obligations under the Australian consumer law,” it said.

“The ACCC also has an inquiry underway into the wholesale service levels that NBN Co providers to its retailers.

“We will continue to monitor reports of complaints as part of our investigations and this inquiry.”

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