Updated April 17, 2018 12:37:57
Darren Haymes was confident his new NBN service would be far superior to his old internet connection, but his service was so bad that after months of complaints and visits by helpless technicians, the Melbourne resident was put back onto his old Telstra cable internet connection.
"It was preposterous," Mr Haymes said.
"It was just so frustrating and so aggravating and causing me a lot of anxiety."
Mr Haymes' troubles started immediately after his NBN connection was activated in late November.
"The switch went live and the technician left and suddenly we couldn't get the internet," Mr Haymes said.
He immediately called his retail service provider, Telstra, to complain.
It was the start of a six-week period of no internet, constant nagging and no clear answers.
During that period, Mr Haymes was visited by eight technicians, had two new NBN boxes and six new Telstra modems installed, his street connection was replaced twice, and cabling throughout the house was rewired.
"It was a fight between Telstra and NBN," Mr Haymes said.
"NBN were blaming Telstra, Telstra were blaming NBN. I was getting nowhere. I was frustrated, I was angry, I was very anxious.
"I had technicians scratching their head, like literally scratching their head, not knowing how to fix the problem."
With his children needing the internet to study for university and high school, Mr Haymes took measures into his own hands, buying a Telstra dongle that was shared between his family of five.
His Telstra bills skyrocketed into the thousands of dollars. The telco has since agreed to reimburse Mr Haymes $5,345.
It was only after Mr Haymes complained to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) that his problem of dropouts was finally resolved in March, after the watchdog arranged for Mr Haymes to be returned to his original Telstra cable connection.
He has since had no internet issues.
"The TIO took it on, and took it quickly," Mr Haymes said.
"They explained to me they were being inundated by enquiries about the NBN, but they were excellent."
The latest data from the TIO shows Mr Haymes is not alone, with a surge in complaints about services delivered on the NBN in last year.
"Of course it's a concern," ombudsman Judi Jones said.
"For consumers who have a problem connecting to the network or who are getting poor service quality once connected, it's really frustrating when you're expecting a beautiful new service and it doesn't go well."
The ombudsman's data shows there were 22,827 complaints from July to December 2017.
That was a 203.9 per cent increase in complaints compared to the same period for the previous year.
It comes as NBN closes in on its 2020 completion deadline, with 948,606 premises activated during that six-month period.
"We're not supervising the rollout," Ms Jones said.
"We can assume that people who don't contact us are having a great experience, but it's certainly concerning the complaints we receive," Ms Jones said.
|Phone and internet complaints||Percentage increase|
|New South Wales||27.9pc|
NBN Co said it received less than 5 per cent of complaints to resolve.
"NBN Co acknowledges there is still more work to be done," co-chief customer officer Brad Whitcomb said.
"Particularly at this critical stage of the rollout as we balance prioritising customer experience without taking our foot off the construction pedal."
The ombudsman's report comes after it was equipped with new powers to compel NBN Co resolve disputes, rather than only being able to instruct the retail service provider.
The six-month update shows there was a 28.7 per cent increase in all telecommunication complaints to the ombudsman, with charges and fees the most common concern, followed by provider response and poor service quality.
The ombudsman said most complaints were resolved within a month and after the first phone call.
Mr Haymes said he wanted the NBN rollout to go at a pace that ensures fewer problems.
"The NBN needs to take responsibility, it needs to be held accountable,'' Mr Haymes said.
"[NBN needs to] try and address the core issues, not roll customers into the NBN service if it's not ready."
NBN Co recently announced it would resume installing the type of connection used for Mr Haymes' home, known as hybrid fibre coaxial, after suspending its rollout last year due to connection problems.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has told telcos they "need to lift their game".
He has announced a comprehensive review of the complaints system, aimed at exposing who is responsible for a problem.
"All consumers want to know very clearly when something is a retailer responsibility and when something is an NBN responsibility, so that there can be accountability," he said.
He flagged a possible increase in the fines that can be imposed on telecommunications companies if the ombudsman upholds complaints against them.
"Financial penalties and compensation is one of the things we will look at in reviewing the consumer safeguards framework," Senator Fifield said.
"You do want there to be a little bit of a sting for telcos when it comes to behaviour that isn't what it should be."
Senator Fifield sought to distance the politically sensitive NBN from the rest of the complaints.
He noted that the TIO's report showed a 27 per cent increase in complaints, but said three quarters of those did not involve the NBN, and only around 1,000 complaints were about matters the NBN has responsibility to fix.
First posted April 17, 2018 06:21:22