Got a Telco or NBN complaint – tell it to someone who cares

TIO report 2017/18

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is moving to put in place new complaint handling rules for consumers moving to the NBN.

“As we announced in December, the ACMA is putting in place stronger rules to improve consumers’ experience in migrating to the new Network,’ said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“Today we are releasing the first of these new rules for public comment. These cover telco complaints-handling processes and monitoring. Following consultation, the ACMA intends these rules to be in place by June,” O’Loughlin said.

“Telco customers deserve to have their complaints dealt with quickly and effectively. As industry co-regulation is proving ineffective in this area, we will put in place rules so that the ACMA can act more quickly to deal with non-compliance,” she added.

The ACMA says approximately 25% of the resolved complaints were dissatisfied with the complaints-handling process. The top three reasons given by households for this dissatisfaction were:

  • 58% – too long to fix/take action
  • 48% – poor communication or lack of communication
  • 39% – nobody would take responsibility for fixing my problem

The rules on which the ACMA is currently consulting are intended to:

  • impose minimum complaints-handling processes requirements on all CSPs (retail carriage service providers like Telstra)
  • where appropriate, require the involvement of wholesale providers (like NBN) in the resolution of consumer complaints made to CSPs
  • improve the ACMA’s ability to enforce compliance with these minimum requirements
  • allow the ACMA to better monitor and analyse consumer complaint trends over time.

The consultation is on the draft Telecommunications (Consumer Complaints Handling) Industry Standard 2018

ACMA drove the process, and its research was integral to revealing the extent of the issues.

GadgetGuy’s experiences with the NBN and CSPs- commentary below.

We all know NBN is coming, but the key drivers for consumers are cost, keeping the existing phone number and speed. Simply put the key pain points are the same cost as they are currently paying, the same phone number and the same speed. Other than that they don’t give a rat’s! They don’t think about reliability as the phone, ADSL or Cable is seldom down.

These results are perhaps a little unexpected – CSPs are doing an excellent job at explaining their offer, but each was sufficiently different that is was hard to compare offers.

NBN is a standard product – three speeds, phone, and data allowance – all the same regardless of which CSP you use. Then marketing and PR then put lipstick on the pig in the hope of enticing you over the dozens of CSPs out there. The enticement is where the confusion reigns supreme.


As we said above NBN is a standard product. Labor’s dream of 100% fibre to the premise (FTTP) may have been idealistic and bankrupted Australia. NBN delivers internet and phone by FTTP, FTTN/B (Telstra’s old copper wire), HFC (Foxtel cable owned by Telstra) and in some rural areas wireless or satellite.

As a user of both FTTN and HFC, I can say that I am 99% pleased with NBN. Speeds are within 10% of advertised (that relates to the use of Telstra that has low contention ratios) and occasionally I get dropout for a minute or so on the FTTN.

However, as a very long-term user of Telstra, it is a whole different story. The FTTN install was cancelled eight times without telling me – it took over forty hours hanging on the phone and a certain loss of cool to finally get an install time.The NBN installer was great – it was all Telstra’s fault in completing paperwork correctly.

The HFC install went well with both Foxtel and NBN turning up as promised, but Telstra took four weeks and at least eight hours on the phone nagging them to send the necessary modem to use a phone with. They also forgot to provide the free speed boost as promised, charged for it instead, and then took months to fix the accounts.

Finally, on both occasions, Telstra got the billing very wrong overcharging big-time and not recognising the concessions offered by the salespeople. That took weeks to sort out and months to get it right.

Funnily enough, its Philippines call centre was way more efficient that Telstra in trying to fix things but you needed the patience of Job to get Telstra right. Once done however it is fine.

There is a nasty little secret out there in CSP land. They buy say 1,000Mb/s capacity. They sell that to twenty x 50Mb/s users – fine as there is no contention. Contention Ratio (or oversubscription ratio) is the number of users sharing the same data capacity.

But lower cost operators have been caught with a 50:1 or even a 100:1 contention ratio – 1,000/2,000 people sharing that hypothetical 1,000Mb/s means if they were all using it at the same time they get 1/.5Mb/s!!!

This is a huge issue – fortunately, it did not happen to me. It is unacceptable for NBN to say that its now in your street and then you go to a CSP who cheerfully takes your order.

Part of that process is to select a cut-over day where ADSL or Cable is disconnected, and in theory, NBN is connected. Result – should be a seamless change at your home.

But there are countless cases of mainly HFC cutovers where it simply did not work and getting the internet or phone going again took over a month. Who to blame? Well, I suspect it is mostly due to your CSP not completing paperwork properly. All my dealings with NBN technicians has been excellent.

This is a critical graph. The sweet spot – what consumers want – is unlimited data at 25Mb/s. In reality, while it is unlimited, few consumers use more than a few Gigabytes (GB) per month.

Of course, there are power users that streamed music or video (100-400MB/hour) that would be flat out using 100GB a month.

I pay for 100/40Mb/s/unlimited at both locations because I need the upload speed for GadgetGuy. I could easily get by on the lowest if all I was doing is occasional video streaming.

Cost is a factor of data and speed plans. It is fair to say that 50% use the base or 25Mb/s plan and 50% elect to use the 100Mb/s although these figures don’t fully correspond with the previous table. Telstra BigPond 50Mb/s is $99 per month ($15 extra for 100Mb/s), and it is, as far as I am aware, is the highest cost of all CSPs.

Opinion – NBN (1), CSP (0)

In the end, the NBN gets a bad rap for what is usually the CSP’s fault. The ACMA and ACCC are working hard to ensure minimum evening speeds, that contention ratios are reasonable, and that the NBN is fully explained to consumers. Finally when you have a complaint – someone listens.