The consumer watchdog will look to hand down penalties to NBN Co when it misses scheduled appointments to connect businesses and consumers to new broadband services.
Speaking to the ABC yesterday, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims said the exact penalties for missed deadlines are still being considered as part of an ongoing ACCC inquiry into the NBN, but he is confident the new rules will be introduced this year.
“[The regulation] will go to people turning up when they say they’ll turn up and penalties if that doesn’t happen,” he said.
The ABC reports NBN Co would have to pay any fines over missed installations to the retail provider of the service, for example Telstra.
When contacted by SmartCompany, an NBN Co spokesperson said the organisation is working with the watchdog on its inquiry into broadband rollout.
“The ACCC is in the midst of undertaking an inquiry into whether this regulation is necessary, NBN Co is currently working constructively with the regulator on the inquiry,” the spokesperson said.
The inquiry into NBN service standards was announced by the ACCC in November, and was to explore enforcing standards levels and rules for compensation when the expected standards are not met.
In the discussion paper released as part of the inquiry into NBN wholesale standards, the ACCC said introducing penalties when it failed to meet performance metrics could pressure NBN Co to remain on track with rolling out the infrastructure.
“Where NBN Co fails to achieve its performance objective for end user connections, NBN may be required to pay a rebate to the affected wholesale customer,” ACCC said in the discussion paper.
According to NBN Co’s wholesale agreement, the rebate is currently set at $25 per connection for every missed appointment when NBN Co fails to meet a specified service standard level involving it delivering at least 90% of its connections on time. The ACCC is looking to impose further penalties when introducing its own service standards.
The discussion paper acknowledges it can currently take up to 35 days to complete an end-user connection in isolated areas.
Feedback submissions on the discussion paper were due on February 16.
Providers also critical of NBN services
In a statement in December, Sims also said internet service providers (ISPs) have reported NBN services aren’t up to scratch.
“The ACCC has heard industry concerns from ISPs that the service standards aren’t adequate to ensure customers have a good experience connecting to and having faults repaired for NBN services,” he said.
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In its 2018-2021 corporate plan, the NBN is expected to the initial build of its infrastructure, and universal high-speed access to broadband, by 2020. More than half of homes and businesses will be connected to the NBN by the end of the 2018 financial year.
In 2016, over 82,000 appointments were missed. In 2016-2017, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman received 27,195 complaints related to the NBN, 11,000 of which focused on delays in connection to the NBN.
*This article was updated on February 20, 2018 at 3.15pm