Internet providers fined for ‘misleading’ NBN speed claims as unresolved telco complaints rise

Mobile phone services have triggered the most complaints from telco customers.

Mobile phone services have triggered the most complaints from telco customers. Photo: Getty/TND

Internet providers have been fined $2.5 million for making misleading claims about NBN speeds, as a new report highlights Australians’ telco complaints.

The federal court has ordered Dodo and iPrimus to pay $1.5 million and $1 million respectively for making ‘misleading claims’ about their NBN broadband speeds, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruled on Wednesday.

The news came as the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s latest report showed a rise in the number of unresolved complaints.

Dodo and iPrimus are both owned by Vocus Group, which is Australia’s fourth-largest telco operator, with 5.2 per cent overall market share of consumer NBN services, and 436,000 retail broadband customers.

Both admitted their ‘typical evening speed’ claims made between March 2018 and April 2019 were misleading because they were not based on an appropriate testing methodology.

“The ACCC brought this case because we were concerned that the methodology which the Vocus Group used as the basis for its speed claims cherry-picked only the fastest speeds its network could deliver, and ignored the slower speeds many of its customers experienced,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“These misleading speed claims meant consumers could not accurately compare different offerings and make an informed choice about their broadband provider.”

No reception? Mobile services frustrate Australians

Mobile phone services beat internet and landlines as the nation’s most complained about telco service, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s latest quarterly report revealed.

Residential consumers and small businesses made 30,393 complaints about phone and internet services between January and March, the report released on Wednesday showed.

The figure represents a 0.3 per cent decline in complaints compared to the previous quarter.

Mobile phone connections remained the most complained about service type, accounting for more than one in three complaints (35 per cent).

‘No or delayed action’ by service providers was the biggest gripe, accounting for 43 per cent total complaints across all telco services.

Telco complaints for the first quarter of 2021


Service and equipment fees was the next biggest problem, accounting for 33 per cent of all complaints, followed by ‘no phone or internet service’ (13 per cent).

Unresolved complaints ‘concerning’

The ombudsman’s report showed a “concerning” rise in the number of unresolved complaints so far this year.

Between January and March, 7248 complaints came back unresolved from telco service providers, up from 6829 in the previous quarter.

There were 5674 unresolved complaints ‘escalated for dispute resolution’ in the first three months of 2021, up from 4011 in October-December.

“Complaints reflect the consumer experience of their phone and internet services and interactions with their telco. While the decline in overall complaints is a positive sign, the increase in complaints coming back to us unresolved is concerning,” Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones said.

Luke Clifton, group executive at Macquarie Telecom, said the report showed “the telco industry’s woeful reputation on customer service” was continuing “with more than one complaint every five minutes, of every single day in the first quarter of the year”.

“As lockdowns continue to plague millions of Australians and virtual communication becomes even more important for how we live, connect and work, telcos have simply not stepped up to fix long-overdue systemic issues,” Mr Clifton said.

The rise in reporting of unresolved complaints “is very concerning”, he said, as “it means that even when the ombudsman steps in, issues are not being resolved and consumers are left stranded”.

“Reliance on telecoms will keep rising, and the industry needs to take a hard look at itself,” Mr Clifton said.

Topics: NBN
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