Missed appointments from NBN contractors could be costing us millions in lost productivity
Missed appointments from NBN contractors who fail to show up even when you take time off work to let them in aren’t just annoying, they’re also costing us millions of dollars a year.
On average, around 320 appointments are missed completely every single day, adding up to more than $15 million a year in lost productivity.
The figures are revealed in analysis by economic consultancy firm Synergies commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), which used financial modelling to place the value of a missed appointment at $150.
ACCAN director of policy Una Lawrence said the time-wasting missed appointments were “simply not good enough”.
“It’s unfair for everyday Australians to bear the cost of unreliable NBN practices,” Ms Lawrence said.
The network said it wants to see better reliability safeguards for homes and businesses, which requires rethinking the existing customer service guarantees and the time frames given for a fault to be fixed.
The ACCC recently floated the idea of charging the company in charge of delivering the national broadband network for each missed appointment in a draft decision on its inquiry into the Wholesale Service Standards that dictate how NBN Co should conduct business with telcos.
A submission from ACCAN said the network supports the idea of effectively fining NBN Co, but wants to see the amount increased from $75 to $100 to “better reflect the costs faced by consumers”.
A spokesperson for NBN Co told news.com.au it had already volunteered to offer a $25 rebate for missed appointments and late repairs, but both the ACCC and ACCAN want that price increased.
ACCAN is also calling for an increase to the proposed amount NBN Co pays when services don’t perform as well as expected.
“This rebate should increase to $30 a month for any service that is not reaching speeds consistent with the baseline expectation of 25 mbps for an NBN service,” ACCAN said.
It also wants the rebates put straight in our pocket, rather than given to retail service providers who could pass it on to their customers, use it to improve their services, or simply keep.
“Given that we are the ones being inconvenienced when NBN services are unreliable, there need to be robust arrangements in place to make sure the refunds are passed on to consumers by their telcos,” Ms Lawrence said.
This “middleman” approach to delivering the NBN is also contributing to another of its most annoying flaws.
When an appointment is cancelled, NBN Co informs the retail service provider that the contractor won’t be showing up. It’s then up to the telco to pass the word on to their customer, which in many cases is a simple text message to deliver the bad news.
ACCAN has also supported an ACCC proposal for the NBN to keep more detailed records about appointments, connections and faults against performance benchmarks in order to provide better accountability and stop NBN Co and telcos playing handball with the blame.
The notification method varies among telcos.
“Once we are notified, we attempt to call our customer to arrange a new appointment as a priority,” a Vodafone spokesperson told news.com.au. “If we are unable to get in touch with the customer over the phone straight away, we will then send them a text message and/or email requesting them to contact us to arrange a new appointment.”
Telstra’s process is similar, making phone calls and leaving voicemails, texts and emails for customers on three separate occasions over a two-day period, following up with a letter if it can’t make contact within two weeks.
A spokesperson for Optus was not able to provide comment before deadline.
Australia’s other big internet service provider TPG, did not respond to a request for comment.
NBN Co said it’s working to lower the number of missed appointments.
“We understand the frustration experienced by people who have had missed appointments,” the spokesperson said. “To improve the installation process, we have put in place procedures to prompt installers to call ahead the day before and give notice of their scheduled attendance.”
“While there are circumstances when appointments may need to be rescheduled, such as bad weather, or previous complex jobs requiring more time to be completed, we aim to work with our delivery partners to ensure they contact the resident to let them know if their appointment needs to be rescheduled.
“If this is the case, our delivery partner will reschedule for the next available appointment. We will continue to work closely with our internet providers and delivery partners to improve our installation and assurance processes.”
NBN Co’s most recent monthly update said 95 per cent of connections are installed within the advised time frames and 93 per cent are installed right the first time.
10.3 million Australian homes and businesses are now able to connect to the national broadband network but so far only around 6 million have.
The rollout is on track to be complete by the end of June next year, and you’ll have 18 months to connect to the network when it becomes available in your area if it hasn’t already.