The Australian Labor Party has promised to introduce an ‘NBN Service Guarantee’ if they win the next federal election.
The guarantee will set regulated timeframes and service standards around installations, fixing faults and missed appointments, Shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland announced yesterday.
“Right now your NBN retail provider is accountable to you, and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. Yet it’s not really clear who the NBN is accountable to when something goes wrong. It’s no wonder that a lack of accountability is one of the biggest complaints about the NBN,” she said in a video posted to social media.
The standard would be enforced through financial penalties, she added. In addition there would be “stronger penalties to safeguard small businesses”.
The fines would be paid by the NBN to direct customers, and the retail service providers, who would pass the money to end users, minus administration costs.
Labor also said the remit of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) would be expanded to “ensure there is a single line of oversight for NBN wholesale standards and the retail pass through”.
A Labor government would work with the ACCC, NBNCo, Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and other key stakeholders to set appropriate penalty amounts, the party said.
“These reforms have been designed to target underlying incentive structures that too often leave Australians stuck in a frustrating blame game, with no-one willing to take responsibility”, Rowland said in a statement.
“Our policy will make NBN more accountable to retail providers, so that retail providers can in turn be more accountable to their customers. We will place the consumers back at the centre and give them fair rights – that is what Labor Governments do.”
In November the ACCC announced it was launching an inquiry into the services sold by NBN to retail service providers, and the possibility of using its regulatory powers to create new rules around wholesale service standards.
Earlier this month, the ACMA introduced a Service Continuity Standard, a new rule that means, where feasible, NBN and telecommunications providers must not disconnect existing fixed-line services unless a new NBN connection is working.
NBNCo since February has published monthly progress reports covering metrics such as network availability, ‘installed right the first time’, and number of connected homes and businesses.
Business association, the NSW Business Chamber has taken credit for originating the Labor policy, and welcomed the announcement.
“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and this policy mirrors what we proposed back in March, right down to the observations about the financial impact that the delays and disruptions are having on business,” said the group’s chief executive Stephen Cartwright.
“It’s good to see sound policy being proposed by the alternative Government, and the proposed protections for small business are exactly what our members have been calling for,” he added.