Life Tech ‘Simply not good enough’: Missed NBN Co appointments cost consumers $15 million a year
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‘Simply not good enough’: Missed NBN Co appointments cost consumers $15 million a year

Time is money: ACCAN is pushing for consumers to be better compensated for NBN Co's missed appointments. Photo: TND
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Missed NBN Co appointments are costing consumers more than $15 million a year in lost time, new analysis has shown.

The staggering sum was highlighted by the nation’s peak body for phone and internet users on Wednesday, in a response to the consumer watchdog’s NBN Wholesale Service Standards Inquiry draft decision.

The NBN Co misses an average of 320 appointments each day, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) found, with each missed appointment costing an individual consumer about $150 in wasted time.

“This is simply not good enough,” ACCAN policy director Una Lawrence said.

It’s unfair for every day Australians to bear the cost of unreliable NBN practices.”

The $15 million figure was calculated using economic modelling commissioned by ACCAN from Synergy Economics.

Earlier this year the NBN Co reported that its technicians missed 114,093 appointments – an average of 469 per day, between July 1, 2018 and February 20 this year.

However, in its analysis, ACCAN deducted the one-third of those appointments that were completed earlier or later the same day, bringing the figure down to an average of 320 missed appointments per day.

The process of connecting to the NBN or getting a fault fixed “can be a real pain point for people”, Ms Lawrence said.

“Not only do you have the inconvenience of taking time off from work to wait for a contractor, but there’s no guarantee they’ll turn up on time or at all.”

A spokesperson for NBN Co told The New Daily the firm is “committed to working with the industry to improve customer experience and will work constructively with the ACCC to help achieve this”.

“We understand the frustration experienced by people who have had missed appointments relating to their NBN installation and want to reassure all Australians that one of our key priorities is to work alongside the industry to deliver great experiences for people who connect to the NBN,” the spokesperson said.

Increase missed appointments rebate to $100: ACCAN

ACCAN urged the consumer watchdog to “go further” to ensure NBN customers are protected by reliability safeguards.

In its draft decision released last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) proposed that the rebate for missed appointments be increased from $25 to $75.

However, ACCAN argued the rebate should be raised to a minimum of $100 “to better reflect the costs faced by consumers”.

“We strongly support the ACCC’s proposals in its draft decision because they recognise the fundamental problem of a monopoly wholesale provider being able to set its own terms, which at times do not deliver for the community and small businesses – but we think they could go further,” Ms Lawrence said.

ACCAN also said the ACCC’s proposed “speed assurance rebate” for underperforming services should be increased from $20 to $30.

The consumer advocate also “[questioned] the merit in rebates being paid to retail service providers in the absence of conditions requiring their pass through”.

As a wholesaler, the NBN Co pays rebates for poor service to retail service providers (RSPs) – not the affected individuals.

“Given that we are the ones being inconvenienced when NBN services are unreliable, there need to be robust arrangements in place to make sure the refunds are passed on to consumers by their telcos,” Ms Lawrence said.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said last month the consumer watchdog would “expect retailers to ensure that their customers benefit from the payment of wholesale rebates”.

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said “it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the outcomes of the review”.

“In general, NBN Co is committed to working with the industry to improve customer experience and will always work constructively with the ACCC to help achieve this,” the spokesperson said.

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