Liverpool residents fed up with NBN problems

Liverpool residents are in the top 10 suburbs complaining about NBN (National Broadband Network) throughout Australia.

Findings in the Ombudsman’s annual report have revealed 680 complaints, while Campbelltown ranked first with 769.

A 160 per cent increase in complaints about services under the National Broadband Network and a 43.5 per cent rise in those about Telstra by frustrated customers caused a spike to 158,016 in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in the past financial year.

Just under 50 per cent of all complaints were about Telstra, while another 20 per cent concerned the NBN, found the Ombudsman's annual report being released today, which showed consumers are paying a big price for the rollout of the national network.

Not since 2012/13 have so many Australians been unhappy with their phone and internet service, found the Ombudsman's 2016/2017 annual report to be released on Wednesday, October 17.

The Ombudsman Judi Jones is the last resort for consumers and businesses who have been unable to resolve issues directly with their telephone or Internet provider.

The report said the office had recorded nearly 64,000 complaints about internet services, a 65 per cent increase, while 52,300 people griped about their mobile phones, a 27 per cent increase.

Source: 2016-17 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report

Source: 2016-17 Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report

It was the first time that complaints about internet service exceeded those about mobile phones, said Ms Jones.

"We are frustrated when we cannot rely on technology to stay connected, to be informed and to do business," she said.

"Sharing high quality videos immediately, holding online meetings online and watching Netflix on the way home is now the norm, and part of our daily routine," she said.

Failure to resolve customer service issues was the number one reason that customers asked the TIO to intervene.

Narelle Clark, the deputy director of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) said a huge increase in customer service problems across all services showed improved consumer protections was needed.

"Many consumers are being left with no connection or a service that is completely unusable. This is not acceptable and it's clear there is an urgent need for updated consumer guarantees. Considering the rollout of the NBN has reached scale and more consumers are making the switch, this must change," added Ms Clark.

Given the huge number of complaints, and the spike reversing the previous' few years downward trend, there was a need for improved consumer protection, especially in the areas of sales, service and contracts, billing, credit and debt management, changing suppliers, and complaint handling.

While more complaints were to be expected about the NBN during its rollout, Ms Jones said the large increase in unhappy customers was a cause for concern.

Many were caused by the rollout of the network: Telstra is migrating its network customers to NBN, and about one in five of its complaints recorded related to the NBN. About one in eight complaints about Optus also related to the NBN.

Telstra attributed some of its customer complaints to the "20,000 customers it is moving to the NBN every week" . And NBN pointed out that the Ombudsman does not distinguish between complaints that are its responsibility to resolve and those that are the responsibility of the retail service provider, such as Telstra, to resolve.

NBN chief executive Bill Morrow. A spokesman for the NBN said the rise in complaints was regrettable. Photo: Daniel Munoz

NBN chief executive Bill Morrow. A spokesman for the NBN said the rise in complaints was regrettable. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Responding to the Ombudsman report, NBN's chief executive Bill Morrow said complaints reported to the Ombudsman accounted for 1 per cent of activated premises.

He said they reflected that "we are not making the experience the best it can be, and we are taking this very seriously."

To improve these figures, more work had been done, which had already reduced TIO complaints by nearly 14 per cent in the three months to September.

"With a workforce of close to 30,000 people digging trenches, hauling cable, climbing poles and going into people's yards and homes, there are inevitably going to be some issues. This is especially the case given approximately nine out of every 10 Australian homes will be impacted by this industry-wide transformation," he said.

The report found that the top 10 service providers, including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, accounted for nearly 91 per cent of all complaints.