Thursday, 23 May 2019 23:01

ACCC publishes guide for problem-plagued NBN fixed wireless broadband customers Featured

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Australia’s competition watchdog, the ACCC, has published a guide for NBN fixed wireless customers, advising them how to seek compensation when they encounter problems with broadband services, including slow speeds.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has also updated its guidance for retailers about how to advertise broadband speed claims.

The commission’s guidance comes as customers on fixed wireless networks, many living in regional and rural areas, are still facing broadband congestion during the busy evening period.

And many fixed wireless broadband customers are not getting speeds anywhere near the maximum advertised in their plans, according to the ACCC.

This could be due to factors including distance from the nearest tower, line of sight issues or congestion on individual cells, and the ACCC says NBN Co has committed to provide broadband providers with information about congested cells, and is working to reduce congestion for fixed wireless customers.

The ACCC’s guidance gives advice on how consumers can seek compensation or other remedies from their provider if they receive poor speeds, how they can get more information about their service, and explains the nature and limitations of fixed wireless services.

It also offers customer tips on how to get the most out of their broadband service while the fixed wireless network is being upgraded.

“We’re publishing this guidance to help fixed wireless consumers be more confident in seeking redress from their service provider if their speeds are lower than represented,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

The ACCC says fixed wireless broadband is used by about 280,000 consumers in regional and remote areas.

Sims notes that in March 2019, about 3% of cells on fixed wireless towers were congested, according to NBN figures.

However the proportion of services affected by congestion is higher than this figure as there are numerous services connected to each cell, Sims said.

“Consumers in rural and remote areas, like those in any other parts of Australia, should not be paying for speeds that they are not getting.”

The ACCC has also extended its industry guidance on speed claims in advertising to include fixed wireless broadband. This guidance sets out the ACCC’s expectations for how broadband providers should advertise NBN speeds to consumers.

“Providers have a responsibility to deliver a service that meets the speed and performance that they advertise,” Sims said.

“If services fall short of what has been advertised, broadband providers must offer remedies, technical support and information to customers.

“The ACCC will continue to address consumer issues in the provision of broadband services, including misleading speed and performance claims made by providers.”

According to its statement, issued on Thursday, the ACCC says it has recently consulted on measures to further boost transparency and improve outcomes for consumers of fixed wireless services as part of its NBN wholesale service standards inquiry – and is currently considering responses to the consultation.

To access the ACCC’s consumer guidance click here, and for the industry guidance click here.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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