What did the ACMA survey cover? Does the research include all technologies?
ACMA’s research report, NBN consumer experience: Households and businesses—the end-to-end journey, provides detailed insights into the experiences of households and small and medium-sized businesses moving to and using services delivered over the NBN.
The ACMA surveyed 1,881 residential households and 1,153 small and medium-sized businesses that had connected to the NBN in the previous 12 months.
Fieldwork was conducted from:
- November 2016 to December 2017 for households
- January 2017 to February 2018 for businesses
Households and businesses surveyed were connected to the NBN across Australia, to all technologies available during the fieldwork period—Fibre to the Premises (FTTP), Fibre to the Node (FTTN), Fibre to the Building (FTTB), hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC), fixed wireless and Sky Muster™ satellite.
What does the research show?
Findings of the research include:
- Just under half (45 per cent) of households and businesses did not know the data download speed for their current plan, although speed of the internet was the second most important factor considered by households (21 per cent) and businesses (18 per cent) when choosing a plan or provider. Only 49 per cent of households and 40 per cent of businesses thought it was easy to compare what was in different NBN plans.
- Around three-quarters of households who recalled receiving information from NBN Co or retail service providers (RSPs) found it useful (74 per cent for NBN Co and 79 per cent for RSPs). However, while many consumers believed they understood the steps in connecting, around a third didn’t understand the different responsibilities of NBN Co and RSPs.
- Thirty-four per cent of households and 40 per cent of businesses reported being left without a phone and/or internet service during connection. Sixteen per cent of households and 14 per cent of businesses were left without phone and/or internet for more than one week while moving to the NBN.
- Thirty-one per cent of households and 42 per cent of businesses have made a complaint to their current or previous telco since connecting to the NBN. Twenty-four per cent of households and 37 per cent of businesses with resolved complaints were dissatisfied with the complaints-handling process, with the most frequently mentioned reason for both groups being that it took too long to fix the problem or take action.
How has the research informed the new standards?
The ACMA has addressed the findings of the research by making new rules requiring telcos to:
What is the Service Migration Determination?
The Service Migration Determination applies to telcos, both retail and wholesale, and has the objective of ensuring that consumers aren’t left without a working telecommunications service when a problem arises during their move to the NBN, and that their NBN service will work as promised.
The determination requires telcos to:
conduct a post-migration test to determine whether a consumer’s NBN service is working
provide an interim service if a consumer is left without a working telecommunications service during their move to the NBN, unless one of certain limited exceptions applies (see below)
confirm that the underlying network infrastructure used by NBN technologies that use the existing copper network can support the speed tier specified in the plan sold to the consumer and provide remedies if it doesn’t.
Who is covered by the Service Migration Determination?
The Service Migration Determination covers all NBN technology types where the ‘old network’ service is required to be disconnected to connect to the NBN. These technologies are Fibre to the Node (FTTN), Fibre to the Building (FTTB) and Fibre to the Curb (FTTC).
The determination also applies to other technology types in circumstances where the retail telco providing the NBN service is not the retail telco that was providing the ‘old network’ service, and either:
the consumer wants to transfer their telephone number from their ‘old network’ service to an NBN service; or
the consumer has requested the ‘old network’ retail telco to disconnect the ‘old network’ service.
Why does a post-migration test need to be done?
The post-migration test alerts telcos when a service is not working. The telco may perform the post-migration test by remotely accessing the consumer’s modem. In this case, the consumer does not need to be at home for the post-migration test to be completed.
If the post-migration test finds the service isn’t working, the telco then has three working days to fix the problem, before being required to provide an interim service (unless one of certain limited exceptions applies—see below).
What happens if the modem hasn’t been supplied by the telco carrying out the testing?
Before a consumer enters into a contract, it is the responsibility of the telco to advise the consumer that it may not be able to conduct a post-migration test on their modem. In this instance, it is also the responsibility of the telco to advise the consumer that it is the consumer’s responsibility to inform them (the telco) of any issues with their NBN service.
What happens if a consumer’s NBN service doesn’t work at the time they migrate from the old network?
If a consumer’s NBN service is not working at the time of connection, consumers are provided with a safety net. Within three working days, the NBN retail telco must attempt to get the NBN service working properly. If it is not successful, consumers can agree with their NBN retail telco to be supplied with an interim service (for example, a mobile broadband service) or some other arrangement (such as reasonable compensation or using their own mobile service with extra data provided by the telco). The NBN retail telco can only supply an interim service once it has gained consent from the consumer.
Is there a cost associated with supplying an interim service?
Where a consumer has agreed to be supplied with an interim service (such as a mobile broadband service), they won’t pay any more for that alternative service than the monthly fee applicable to the lowest speed plan offered by their telco.
The telco must also tell the consumer about the key features and limitations of the service, such as the speed of the service and any limits to the amount of data provided, so consumers can make an informed choice about the service.
When does the requirement to supply an interim service not apply?
The requirement to supply an interim service doesn’t apply when:
the consumer doesn’t consent to the supply of the interim service
the telco supplies a consumer with a ‘backup’ service that provides immediate continuity if an NBN service isn’t working (such as via a dual NBN/mobile network modem)
the consumer agrees with the telco on an alternative arrangement, which may include the payment of reasonable compensation by the telco or using their own mobile service with extra data provided by the telco.
Can a telco charge for an NBN service that isn’t working?
The telco is prohibited from charging a consumer for their NBN service if it isn’t working. If a telco has issued a consumer with a bill for the NBN service in advance, they must provide a refund or credit for that amount.
How long will it take to get an interim service?
After the consumer and telco have agreed on an interim service (such as a mobile broadband service), it must be supplied to the consumer within:
three working days if the consumer is located in an urban area
four working days if the consumer is located in a major rural area
six working days if the consumer is located in a minor rural or a remote area.
What happens if a consumer’s interim service is not performing as expected?
If an interim service is not performing as expected, the telco must take all reasonable steps to improve the service to the reasonable satisfaction of the consumer.
If the interim service cannot be improved, the telco must negotiate an alternative arrangement with the consumer.
How long must a telco provide consumers with an interim service?
Under the Service Migration Determination, a telco must supply a consumer with an interim service until their NBN service is working.
What happens if there is a long delay in getting an NBN service working?
Where there is an unreasonable delay in getting an NBN service working, the telco must, after 20 working days, develop a plan aimed at getting the service working as soon as possible.
The telco must give the consumer a copy of that plan.
If that plan doesn’t result in getting the service working within a further 20 working days, the telco will need to undertake a technical audit of the connection.
Once a consumer’s NBN service is determined to be working properly, the NBN retail telco must, for NBN technologies that use the existing copper network, confirm the maximum speed that the consumer’s NBN service can achieve. This process is called line-capability assessment.
What is line-capability assessment?
A line-capability assessment confirms the maximum speed that the consumer’s NBN service can achieve. Under the Service Migration Determination, telcos can assess the line capability for the consumer’s NBN service by checking information provided by NBN Co about the service or by performing a line-capability test.
What if the maximum speed specified in the consumer’s contract is not able to be achieved?
If the line capability test shows that the consumer is not able to receive the speed tier specified in their contract, the telco must let the consumer know:
what the maximum speed is that they can receive
that they are able, at no cost to them, to move to a lower speed plan at a lower price, which reflects the speeds that they can receive
that they can exit the contract with their telco at no cost.
Can consumers be billed for their service if they aren’t receiving the speed tier outlined in their contract?
No, unless 10 working days have passed since the telco notified the consumer about the outcome of the line-capability test.
When will the Service Migration Determination take effect?
The Service Migration Determination takes effect on 21 September 2018.
What does the Service Continuity Standard do?
The Service Continuity Standard applies to telcos—both retail and wholesale—and has the objective of ensuring that consumers aren’t left without a working telecommunications service when a problem arises during their move to the NBN.
Under this standard, retail telcos that provide services to consumers via the NBN must carefully manage the move of a consumer’s service from the ‘old network’ to a service on the NBN, so that the consumer experiences a smooth transition to the NBN.
In the cases of ‘parallel’ moves to the NBN (in which the old network service doesn’t need to be disconnected in order to connect to the NBN, as with the FTTP, HFC, fixed wireless and satellite NBN technologies):
- where the NBN retail telco is also supplying an old network service to the consumer, the NBN retail telco isn’t permitted to disconnect the old network service until the NBN service is working properly.
- where the consumer is moving to a new NBN retail telco to get an NBN service, the new NBN retail telco will be required to tell the consumer that they shouldn’t disconnect their old network service with their old telco until their NBN service is working.
How much will it cost to be supplied with an ‘old network’ service or an alternative service (such as a mobile service)?
Where a consumer is reconnected to their old network service, their telco can’t charge more for that old service than the consumer used to pay. A consumer also can’t be charged for the costs of reconnection to an old network service.
If a consumer has agreed with their NBN retail telco to be supplied with an alternative service (such as a mobile service), they won’t pay any more for that alternative service than they have agreed to pay for the NBN service once it is working. The NBN retail telco must also tell the consumer about the key features and limitations of the service so consumers can decide whether they want the alternative service.
The NBN retail telco is prohibited from charging a consumer for their NBN service when it isn’t working. If they’ve issued a consumer with a bill for the NBN service in advance, they must provide a refund or credit for that amount.
How long will a consumer be supplied with an ‘old network’ service or alternative service (such as a mobile service)?
Under the Service Continuity Standard, a consumer is supplied with an old network service or alternative service that they have agreed to be provided with, until their NBN service is working.
Other telcos, where applicable (including NBN Co), must take reasonable steps to assist the consumer’s NBN retail telco to expedite the supply of an operational NBN service.
What happens if there is an unreasonable delay in getting an NBN service working?
Where there is an unreasonable delay in getting an NBN service working, the NBN retail telco must develop a plan specifically for the consumer’s case, which is directed at getting the service working as soon as possible. The NBN retail telco must give the consumer a copy of that plan.
In the small number of cases where that plan doesn’t result in getting the service working, the NBN retail telco will need to undertake a technical audit. This audit must identify why the plan didn’t result in the service working, set out the remedial steps required to get the service working, and identify measures to avoid similar problems in the future.
What is NBN Co required to do under the Service Continuity Standard?
NBN Co is required to manage the move to the NBN at a consumer’s premises to ensure that there is a smooth transition.
NBN Co must also:
- advise an NBN retail telco if a move to the NBN has been successful
- take reasonable steps to assist an NBN retail telco to expedite the supply of a working NBN service.
NBN Co is also prohibited from advising NBN retail telco or ‘old network’ telcos that the move to the NBN at a consumer’s premises is complete, until it has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that a successful move has occurred.
When does the requirement to reconnect an ‘old network’ service not apply?
The requirement to reconnect an old network service doesn’t apply when the:
- consumer doesn’t consent to the supply of an old network service
- NBN retail telco supplies a consumer with a ‘backup’ service that provides immediate continuity, if an NBN service isn’t working (such as via a dual NBN/mobile network modem)
- consumer has consented to the supply of an interim service (such as a mobile service) by the NBN retail telco
- consumer and the NBN retail telco have agreed on another arrangement, which may include the offer of compensation.
What happens when the supply of an ‘old network’ service is not practicable?
Where the supply of a legacy service is not practicable, an NBN retail telco may propose to supply the consumer with an interim service (such as a mobile service). To do so, the NBN retail telco must first advise the consumer of the time frames surrounding the supply of the interim service, and the details relating to the interim service, such as key features, limitations, fees and charges.
The consumer must formally consent to be provided an interim service.
When will the Service Continuity Standard take effect?
The Service Continuity Standard takes effect on 21 September 2018.
What does the Consumer Information Standard do?
The Consumer Information Standard does four main things:
It requires telcos to give consumers a single-page Key Facts Sheet before they enter into a contract for an NBN service. The Key Facts Sheet contains important information for consumers to enable them to choose a suitable NBN plan for their needs and prepare for their move to NBN-based services.
It requires telcos to adhere to the following practices in their advertising:
- include details of the typical ‘busy period’ download speed the consumer can expect to receive using the service (except for fixed wireless and satellite connections)
- not use the term ‘up to’ in any claim about broadband speed
- where standardised labelling is used to indicate speeds of different plans (for example, ‘basic’, ‘standard’, ‘standard plus’ and ‘premium’), provide definitions of each label on their website.
It requires telcos to supply the following advice to consumers before they enter into a contract for an NBN service:
- whether the consumer can keep their phone number if they transfer their phone service to the NBN
- solutions the telco will make offer the consumer if the consumer’s connection to the NBN isn’t capable of delivering the speed tier specified in their NBN plan (for FTTN, FTTB and FTTC connections only).
When asked by a consumer to supply an NBN service, a telco must ask whether they use a medical or security alarm service and, if so:
- advise them to check with the provider of the alarm service if it’s compatible with the NBN service, and alternatives available to them if it’s not
- recommend they register their medical alarm service on the NBN Medical Alarm Register.
What information will a Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services contain?
Telcos must include the following in their Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services:
- if speed tier information is specified in the telco’s advertising for an NBN plan, advice that this speed is the maximum possible available during off-peak periods
- the typical ‘busy period’ download speed the consumer can expect with a given NBN plan (except for fixed wireless and satellite connections)
- the level of online usage a given NBN plan can support during the busy period, and the activities a low-speed plan won’t support
- solutions the telco will make available to the consumer if the consumer’s connection to the NBN isn’t capable of delivering the speed tier specified in their NBN plan (for FTTN, FTTB and FTTC connections only)
- advice that NBN services won’t operate during a power failure (except where the service is connected using FTTP and a battery backup is installed)
- advice about factors at the consumer’s premises that can affect the speed or performance of their broadband service, and what they can do about these
- advice that they should make their own enquiries about whether any medical or security alarm service they use is compatible with the NBN service, and alternatives available to them if it is not.
Is the Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services the same as the existing Critical Information Summary (CIS) required under the industry TCP Code?
No. The Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services contains specific information to enable a consumer to choose the correct NBN plan for their needs and prepare for their move to NBN-based services.
The key facts sheet is limited to one page and focused on NBN plans only.
The CIS describes the principal price and other features of any plan, not just an NBN plan. It is particularly designed to help consumers compare features between different plans and between different telcos.
For NBN plans, consumers must receive both the single-page Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services and a two-page CIS.
When should a consumer be given a Key Facts Sheet: NBN Services?
The key facts sheet must be given to a consumer before they enter a contract for an NBN internet, phone or combined service.
Where it is impracticable to provide a consumer with a copy of the key facts sheet (for example, where a consumer calls a telco to request a service), the telco must read out the contents of the key facts sheet to the consumer, before they enter into a contract for an NBN service.
In this instance, the telco must then provide the consumer with either an electronic or hard copy version of the document, or a link where the relevant key facts sheet can be downloaded by the consumer.
When will the new Consumer Information Standard take effect?
Requirements in the consumer information rules will take effect from 21 September 2018.
What does the new standard do?
The new standard will oblige CSPs to:
- have and follow a written complaints-handling process that meets minimum standards
- acknowledge all consumer complaints within two working days
- use their best efforts to resolve complaints on first contact
- otherwise, resolve complaints within 15 working days.
- all entities in the NBN supply chain to work together to seamlessly resolve consumer complaints in a timely and effective manner.
What do the new Record-keeping Rules (RKRs) do?
The new RKRs will oblige retail CSPs with 30,000 or more residential and small to medium-size business services in operation to provide complaints data to the ACMA, to allow it to monitor industry complaints-handling performance and to identify new trends driving complaints.
To comply with these obligations retails CSPs must keep a record of the:
- number of services in operation (in total and by service type) being supplied by them
- number of complaints received by them in total in a record-keeping period and according to type of service
- number of complaints referred to a provider by the TIO
- average number of days taken to resolve a non-TIO referred complaint
- number of days taken to resolve at least 80 per cent of non-TIO-referred complaints resolved by the provider during the record-keeping period
- top three non-TIO-referred complaint types by volume.
Qualifying CSPs are required to report complaints data in line with the record-keeping requirements identified above to the ACMA on a quarterly basis.
How will the new rules improve the complaints-handling experience for consumers moving to the NBN?
In December 2017, the ACMA published the findings from information collected from CSPs across the NBN supply chain.
These findings revealed that average times for resolving consumer complaints about connections to, and faults on, the NBN were in some cases drawn-out.
They also indicated that the quality, timing and effectiveness of CSPs handling complaints from their customers deteriorated when it was necessary to communicate with a wholesale provider to manage and resolve a complaint.
The new Complaints-handling Standard imposes a minimum standard for handling complaints, including time frames for communication with complainants.
The new standard also requires wholesale providers, including NBN Co, to provide reasonable assistance to retail-level CSPs in resolving complaints from their customers.
A similar obligation will mean the TIO can obtain similar information and assistance.
Which CSPs will be covered by the requirement to provide quarterly complaints data to the ACMA?
The new Record-keeping Rules will apply to CSPs that have 30,000 or more residential and small to medium-size business services in operation—around 97 per cent of the market.
What will ‘reasonable assistance’ by wholesale providers involve?
The new ‘reasonable assistance’ obligations for wholesale providers will require them to be responsive to requests from retail CSPs to help resolve consumer complaints.
Wholesale providers will need to provide information to retail CSPs in a reasonable amount of time, bearing in mind that the standard imposes time frames on retail CSPs for the resolution of complaints.
What will the ACMA do if complaints-handling doesn’t improve?
If CSPs don’t improve their complaints-handling performance, the ACMA will take compliance and enforcement action against those providers.
In addition, the new Record-keeping Rules will ensure the ACMA has the evidence to monitor complaints trends and, consequently, take more targeted regulatory interventions if necessary.