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   Mar 13

How fast exactly? ACCC tackles confusion over broadband speeds

The ACCC will begin monitoring providers’ speed claims. Photo: Glenn HuntFinding it difficult to make sense of providers’ broadband speed promises? You’re not alone in , and the ACCC has promised to help.
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Recent research by the ACCC reveals that 80 per cent of fixed broadband consumers are confused by the jargon around speeds offered by retail service providers (RSPs) such as Telstra, TPG and Optus.

In the consultation of more than 400 participants, consumers suggested they want broadband speed information in a simple, standardised format so they can more easily compare providers.

The research was motivated by a 48 per cent increase in complaints to the ombudsman over fixed and mobile broadband speeds, which became the largest issue for complaints during 2015-16, the commission said.

“The ACCC is concerned that the use of vague speed claims is not providing consumers accurate, comparable, or useful information … causing a high level of complaints, confusion, and dissatisfaction,” chairman Rod Sims said.

The commission has published guidance principles and promised to consult further on the implementation of findings to help ensure RSPs don’t mislead consumers under n Consumer Law.

It has also said it will begin monitoring providers’ speed claims, with mixed responses from telcos.

In their submissions many providers were, unsurprisingly, not pleased with the prospect of intervention by the ACCC.

Telstra deemed the monitoring of its speeds unnecessary, instead suggesting accountability via a market solution, while TPG flatly opposed any regulation at all.

Other players in the industry, however, have been more welcoming.

“We are delighted that the ACCC has called the traditional telcos to account for fudging their internet download speeds. ISPs need a complete rethink and an “un-telco” approach,” said Luke Clifton, group executive at Macquarie Telecom.

The dissatisfaction among consumers comes amid growing unease around the NBN network roll-out.

At the start of the year, NBN removed speed guidelines from its website.

Since then, NBN providers have been less confident to specify available speeds when spruiking their services, further heightening confusion for consumers.

In response, Telstra announced it will begin publishing the speeds of its NBN service in April.

“Not all experiences are the same, not all NBN services are the same,” Telstra chief executive Andy Penn told News Corp recently.

“The industry should be publishing the speeds that they are delivering. What’s critical is that the industry comes along on that journey so there’s no game-playing.”

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