The NBN is due to connect most Australian households to the internet by 2020.Source:News Limited
The NBN is due to connect most Australian households to the internet by 2020.Source:News Limited

NBN complaints through the roof, Aussies frustrated

AUSTRALIANS remain dissatisfied with the National Broadband Network in large numbers as complaints about the service more than doubled in the final half of last year, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman figures revealed today.

But other internet and mobile phone services are also letting consumers down, with complaints to the Ombudsman soaring by more than 38 per cent compared to last year, and internet services proving the biggest gripe.

The NBN Co rebuffed the surge in complaints, however, blaming the rising number of households being connected to the network for the rise in complaints.

The TIO received almost 66,000 complaints from Australian consumers and businesses unable to resolve problems with service providers between July and December, up from just 49,000 complaints during the same period in 2015.

Ombudsman Judi Jones said the magnitude of the hike was unexpected.

"We did expect a rise but we didn't expect it to be quite that high," she said.

"It reflects a few things. Everyone has a smartphone - you only have to catch public transport to see everyone is on their smartphone - everything is moving to the internet, and there's also the rollout of a major infrastructure program with the NBN."

Complaints about the NBN skyrocketed in the last six months of 2016, more than doubling from last year at 117 per cent.

The NBN's internet services attracted the greatest growth in complaints, up a staggering 141 per cent, while landline complaints grew 92 per cent.

But Ms Jones said the number of households connected to the NBN had also doubled in that time and complaints were no longer growing at the same rate.

"The complaints about (NBN) services are not keeping pace with the rate of connections, so that's a good sign," she said.NBN chief customer officer John Simon said the percentage of NBN customers complaining about services had dropped compared to the first half of last year, but there was still room to improve.

"With about 30,000 households and businesses being connected to services over the NBN network every week, an increase in the individual number of issues reported to the TIO reflects the acceleration of the rollout," he said.

"However, from an NBN perspective, we need to continue to improve the consumer experience as we further ramp up."

Outside the NBN, complaints about internet services grew 53 per cent compared to 2015, while complaints about mobile phones jumped 18 per cent, and landline phone grievances grew 32 per cent.

Victorians and South Australians proved the most likely to complain, at 3.4 complaints for every 1000 residents, but New South Wales consumers lodged the most complaints overall with 21,040 received between July and December.

Ms Jones partly attributed the overall rise in complaints to the "disruptive" force that the NBN had become in the market, as it encouraged consumers to check they were getting the best deal.

"When they get connected to the NBN, they take the opportunity to reconsider their plans and the NBN has been quite disruptive in the marketplace," she said.

"Consumers are telling us there's a lot happening in changes to policies and service offerings."