The ACCC is urging Australian households to shop around for their NBN broadband plans and check for any offers that represent better value for them, following NBN Co notifying retailers of changes to the wholesale prices that it will charge them from next month.
At the same time, the ACCC has put NBN retailers on notice that it will be monitoring to ensure they are upfront with consumers about retail price changes and being accurate in how they present the suitability of their plans for different household types.
The ACCC recently accepted proposed changes to NBN Co’s regulatory commitments after a detailed consultation and negotiation process.
As a result of these changes, the maximum wholesale prices for some NBN speed tiers will initially reduce, including prices for the most affordable services, while some others will increase. For instance, the wholesale prices for the 100 Mbps and 25 Mbps speed tiers will initially decrease, while the wholesale price for the 50 Mbps speed tier will increase.
However, the actual retail prices paid by households are still set by retail service providers who compete for business, meaning there are a variety of deals available for consumers.
“It has never been more important for consumers to compare prices between retailers to make sure they are getting a deal that represents good value for them. There are significant price differences between retailers so it is worth seeing what other deals are available,” ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey said.
“Consumers can use our Measuring Broadband Australia reports to check how well retailers are meeting their speed claims and to see what different speed plans can deliver in terms of commonly used applications like gaming experience and simultaneous streaming.”
“Given cost of living pressures impacting many householders, we expect retailers to assist customers to select NBN plans that best suit their needs so that they avoid paying more than necessary,” Ms Brakey said.
As the wholesale price changes come into effect the ACCC has also reminded NBN retailers of their obligations under Australia’s consumer and competition laws.
“This week we wrote to all NBN retailers making clear our expectation that they are upfront and honest with consumers about what the price changes will be and why these changes are happening,” Ms Brakey said.
“NBN retailers should not be pushing households towards more expensive offers with speed inclusions that are higher than they need. If we were to see this, it would raise concerns. We expect NBN retailers to provide clear information to consumers about suitable plans for their circumstances and preferences,” Ms Brakey said.
“Less expensive 25 Mbps speed plans allow households to access most online applications, including high-definition streaming applications. Depending on the number of people online at the same time, many households could find that a 25 Mbps plan offers good value for them,” Ms Brakey said.
“We are concerned where we see advertising by NBN retailers that suggests households need to be on 50 Mbps or even 100 Mbps plans to stream multiple shows at once, when a less expensive plan may be sufficient. Of course, some households may have a preference for the higher speed tiers, but we want to make sure that customers have clear and accurate information to guide their decisions.”
NBN Co’s services are taken to be declared under Part XIC of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA), which enables the ACCC to regulate the terms and conditions of access, such as wholesale price, to apply where the terms of access cannot be agreed.
In August 2023, NBN Co lodged a revised Special Access Undertaking (SAU) variation proposal that the ACCC consulted on. The ACCC accepted the August 2023 proposal.
While the new wholesale arrangements under the accepted SAU will have important implications for consumer offers, it is up to individual broadband providers to decide any changes to their residential and business plans.
The ACCC monitors the performance of broadband providers in the Measuring Broadband Australia program. This program provides consumers with accurate and independent information about broadband performance to assist their purchasing decisions. The report includes quarterly updates for the streaming capacity of the various NBN plan speeds.
Image: quality of experience streaming high definition (HD) and ultra-high definition (UHD) video during busy hours (7 ro 11 pm, Monday to Friday), May 2023, including underperforming and impaired services.