1. Jurisdiction decision
This is a complaint that TDR can consider in respect both the retail scheme member and the wholesale scheme members.
It is about customer service, and communication issues. It is about whether both have met its obligations in terms of the principles outlined in the Customer Complaints Code (the Code), in particular clause 5 which includes:
- Scheme Members will treat Customers with respect and in a fair and courteous manner at all times.
- All information given to the Customer will be accurate, up-to-date and in plain English, acknowledging telecommunications technology is fast moving and complex.
- Scheme Members will be clear in their communications to Customers; deliver on promises ….
It is acknowledged that retail scheme member appears to have done all that was expected of it, and the customer’s concern lies mainly with the wholesale scheme member. However, the TDR scheme must include the retail scheme member where there is a wholesale scheme member as the billing relationship is currently with the retail scheme member.
The wholesale scheme member has not provided any exclusions under the Code.
The Customer, under clause 5.1.3 of the Code that:
- The time elapsed from his request for fibre installation is unacceptable and could not be called “timely”
- Promises for actions have not been delivered
- He has not been kept informed of delays and the reasons for them
The Customer requested resolution to his complaint was a firm timeline for fibre installation within a reasonably short period of time.
3. Dispute outcome
The final decision of TDR is that the complaint is upheld.
4. Final determination
In making this determination I have considered the information provided by the customer, the retail scheme member and the wholesale scheme member and:
- Fairness in all the circumstances
- Any relevant legal requirements
- The Code and its service standards, including position statements; and
- Any other relevant telecommunications code.
I attempted email and phone facilitation with the parties, including an initial phone conversation with each party, followed by a video conference with the customer and the wholesale scheme member on 5 September. I concluded that the parties would not be able to agree on a resolution, so I moved the matter to adjudication.
I issued a proposed decision on 13 September 2022 and asked for any submissions on that proposed decision by today, 16 September. I also asked the wholesale scheme member to update me on the Corridor Access Request which was supposed to come through no later than 13 September.
5. The Dispute
5.1 The Customer and his partner [REDACTED] have a property at [REDACTED]. The phone account is in the name of the Customer, so this decision is written in his name, although [REDACTED] has actively dealt with the TDR process with me.
5.2 The customer made a request for fibre installation through their broadband provider the retail scheme member in mid-December 2021. On 1 July 2022 the customer referred a complaint to TDR and this was referred to the TDR members on 26 July 2022.
5.3 The retail scheme member acknowledges that there was a delay initially from them as the customer’s address was not in the system and an incorrect address [REDACTED] being used for the order created and submitted on 27 January 2022. The correct address needed to be loaded on the wholesale scheme members system before the retail scheme member could submit the correct address into the order.
5.4 The correct address validation was completed on 4 February. An order [REDACTED] was submitted on 11 February 2022.
5.5 On 15 February a note was placed on The wholesale scheme member portal saying:
This is non-chargeable Infill, schedule tab is now available and you may now book an appointment date according to your customer's availability.
5.6 On 16 February a scope was booked for 25th Feb. This was rebooked by the customer on 17 February for it to be carried out on 28 February with the following notes on the order:
Notes on order, Install/CSE Work Order Rescheduled to 04-03-2022 11.59 AM: End customer requested booking date change
5.7 On 28 February, the customer called The wholesale scheme member, advising that the tech who arrived was unsure how to progress with the order even after doing the scope. The note on the order read:
Note on order from the retail scheme member: Hey team, Customer has called to say the ' subcontractor was unsure of how to progress this order, even after scope date. Please provide an update on the progress of the install. Scope completed per The wholesale scheme member Portal 28/02/22 18:09
5.8 On 3 March the customer was notified of a technician appointment the following day 4 March. However, at that time the work had been put on hold because a civil or network build was required. A note was placed on The wholesale scheme member portal saying:
The installation was unable to complete due to a Faulty Network issue that needs to be resolved before we can proceed with the installation.
Our service partner advised that there's a drop-off issue and requires a Field Manager's approval before we can proceed
5.9 There was then some delay before a note on the portal on 30 March saying:
Following a site visit for the install appointment, the tech has advised that we need to follow the MDU/ROW process before provisioning can go ahead. ROW consent is required. We've referred this to our internal Consenting team to revalidate and process, and will provide further updates once the consenting status of this order changes.
5.10 On 13 April, the customer called the retail scheme member and was passed on to the wholesale scheme member. He gave a lot of information to clear up any potential issues, including that the lot next to his address [REDACTED] that is also attached to his other neighbour at [REDACTED] should be where access to install fibre should be sought as the customer has rights of way to run through this plot and has given the extra DP numbers attached to this lot [REDACTED]. He also mentioned that he thought that there may be fibre access of the pole that joined his address and [REDACTED] and his neighbour at [REDACTED] that may be able to be used. He wanted to pass this information on to ensure there was nothing holding up the installation from lack of information. This information was passed to the wholesale scheme member service partner on 14 April.
5.11 On 23 April, a note on The wholesale scheme member portal noted that the job had been referred to the Consent Team to investigate. This resulted in a response on 27 April noting that the Consent Team is now looking into this order and they will send someone to scope and design this job.
5.12 On 6 May it was noted that there wasn’t a timeframe for the job and that “delays may occur due to the impact of COVID-19 and our field services transition.”
5.13 On 16 May the job had apparently been referred to The wholesale scheme member network connect manager to confirm consenting status for this job. The customer had called to ask for an update as can be seen on regular occasions on the full timeline.
5.14 On 20 June the matter was escalated by the retail scheme member on the recommendation of The wholesale scheme member as there has been miscommunication between UCG and Downer and the customer had been put down the consents queue. As noted on The wholesale scheme member portal:
We had a change of service companies in this region around April. Network Connect Manager has confirmed our new group needs to make up their own plan to address some design issues on the previous design. Consent may not be needed again as gained before though, depends on how different the new design is. We are chasing for the new Design to be actioned ASAP due to delays
5.15 On 1 July the customer referred this matter to TDR. The note on the portal stated:
End user advised that the conduit has been installed already. They have also advised that they have all the necessary information required
5.16 On 11 July the wholesale scheme member noted that this job was awaiting a redesign to be done and there wasn’t a timeframe for this.
5.17 On 12 July the wholesale scheme member advised that there has been a capacity issue where there is no drop-off for this property, and they were working with the designers to draw up a plan to bring fibre to this property. They noted that they will need to get consent from the neighbours and that is what the wholesale scheme member were waiting for.
5.18 On 13 July I understand that the wholesale scheme member closed off this case at level 1 as it is as stakeholder level. the wholesale scheme member replied that this matter is now in consent with an expiry date of 05 August and they will advise when consent is gained after this date.
5.19 The wholesale scheme member confirmed that the matter had been passed on to consents team on 21 July. On 25 July the wholesale scheme member advised that the consent team have advised they are still waiting on the plan to be confirmed but they will make sure this customer is contacted in the meantime. I’m told that consent was gained some time in August.
5.20 On 30 August, the wholesale scheme member confirmed to me that the matter had been referred to CAR (Corridor Access Requests), which takes up to 15 days to confirm with the local authority. An installation estimate was apparently possible at that date. The outside CAR approval date I was given was 13 September, the date of this final decision. I have not been updated on further developments with CAR or given an approximate time period for installation once CAR has been confirmed.
6. Positions of the respective parties
6.1 The customer’s position that the timeframe set out in paras 4.1 to 4.20 from mid-December 2021 with no installation as at the time of this decision is unreasonable. Further, promises have been made by the wholesale scheme member which haven’t been met and he has not been properly and adequately informed of delays and reasons for them.
6.2 In our video conference on 5 September, the customer noted that there has been a lot of mix-ups which they put down to poor organisational change management from the wholesale scheme member , which led to lengthy delays from March to August.
Scheme member’s position
6.3 The retail scheme member noted that after an order has been submitted, they have no control over what happens with an order. The wholesale scheme member portal, where they check for updates, does not have a trigger to advise the Telco there are new updates. It is manually checked, usually when a customer calls asking for an update.
6.4 The retail scheme member notes that all information had been passed through to The wholesale scheme member , and that the customer was proactive is ensuring everything was given in a timely manner and was proactive in checking what was happening.
6.5 The retail scheme member submitted to me that given the delays and interactions the customers had with the retail scheme member and number of updates on the wholesale scheme member portal, that this should have triggered more than a BAU response. The retail scheme member further noted that a contractor visited on 28 February and did not know how to proceed at that stage, but the wholesale scheme member were advising in June there was miscommunication between subcontractors, the consents were outstanding and no plan had been drawn up.
6.6 The retail scheme member noted that they do not have a direct influence on the scheduling of the install and associated tasks. This is not within the retail scheme member’s control as this workload belongs and is fully governed by the wholesale scheme member and their contractors. The delays in scheduling, the repeated requests for information about the property is the responsibility of the wholesale scheme member. The retail scheme member attached all information to the order at the start of the customer’s journey and in the retail scheme member submission there should have been no need to request the same information later in the process.
6.7 The retail scheme member further submitted that the customer had requested a meeting with the wholesale scheme member and the contractors at the start of their journey. the retail scheme member submitted that there was very little the retail scheme member could add if they attended the meeting but they did forward this request to the wholesale scheme member and followed up asking if it could be arranged, but had no answers to these questions from the wholesale scheme member.
6.8 The retail scheme member further submitted that it has responded to each of the queries, have followed up checking for updates, have monitored the progress and have asked the questions. Beyond this, our hands are tied to actually move the install along.
Wholesale scheme member’s position
6.9 The wholesale scheme member have not committed to any installation date so far but provided submissions on my request. They noted that this installation suffered from the following delays:
(a) infill installation required
(b) faulty network due to the drop off issues
(c) ROW build
(d) few weeks delay while work was transitioned from [REDACTED],
(e) initial scope completed by [REDACTED] was not sufficient for [REDACTED] to progress with consent so required an updated design
(f) consent required
(h) Build dates to be confirmed following CAR
6.10 In my video conference with the wholesale scheme member on 5 September, the representative from the wholesale scheme member accepted that this matter hadn’t gone well and that the wholesale scheme member hadn’t communicated properly.
7. Reasons for the decision
7.1 The length of delay now in excess of 9 months from request is not acceptable without cogent reasons from the wholesale scheme member. I appreciate the wholesale scheme member honesty and engagement with the TDR process, including accepting that this matter hasn’t gone well and that the customer has not received an acceptable level of service. The information provided highlights inconsistencies in the reasons the wholesale scheme member have provided for delays and a confused process and explanation for those delays.
7.2 For example, it was noted on 30 March that right of way consent would be required, but this wasn’t applied for until July. The full timeline of updates from the wholesale scheme member portal shows that a linear process wasn’t followed. While I accept that the details of the job changed with further investigation, nothing prevented consents being applied for in a timely manner so that these did not create further delay later in the process.
7.3 From the list of actions on the wholesale scheme member’s portal (a non-exhaustive list of which is included in para 4 above) I can see at least 15 calls from the customer to the retail scheme member asking for updates and providing information to expedite the process with a record left from the retail scheme member following up with the wholesale scheme member. The customer submits that they have made 26 calls to the retail scheme member (mid-December to TDR submission) and has made 8 calls to the wholesale scheme member's subcontractor [REDACTION] (between 3 March and 13 April) and met [REDACTION] on site at the property 4 times.
7.4 I’m also struck by the amount of detail the customer provided on 13 April as detailed in para 4.10 above, including lot numbers, details of conduit consents and owners of neighbouring properties. He did so to avoid the kind of delays that have resulted. I note that the customer suggested [REDACTED] for conduit access which is now the plan that has consent and is the subject of the outstanding CAR.
7.5 The customer tried to avoid delay in engaging directly with the wholesale scheme member so that a full discussion of lots, consents and supporting information could result and further delays could have been avoided. The customer actively sought to discuss all issues so that delays could be avoided. My view is that if the wholesale scheme member had engaged more fully as requested by the customer, some of the delay could have been avoided.
7.6 I accept that the wholesale scheme member have gone through some organisational change during this period which has undoubtedly contributed to delays. However, they knew that these changes were coming and could have planned for them.
7.7 In the video conference of 5 September, the wholesale scheme member accepted that delays at the local level in [REDACTED] have added significantly to the delay and that the wholesale scheme member centrally were trying to make up for this delay. It should not have taken a complaint to TDR for T\the wholesale scheme member to review all the errors and delays and moving to fix them in a timely manner.
7.8 It appears that there is a gap in communication from technicians on the ground to the wholesale scheme member managers, as the customer does not feel fully informed of the reasons for delays and has subsequently little trust in any possible timeframes given by the wholesale scheme member. Notes on the the wholesale scheme member portal also did not result in an escalation of this matter which was clearly languishing and subject to continued delays and little progress.
7.9 I was advised by the wholesale scheme member that following CAR consent, there should be no further delays and that a firm date for installation can be given then. I was told by the wholesale scheme member that CAR would be granted by 13 September at the latest. I was informed on 16 September when I asked the wholesale scheme member for an update that the matter has gone back to consent. It is unfortunate for even this promised step to be missed, leaving the customers back in an uncertain position.
7.10 In my view, the delays, poor communication and changing reasons for delays constitute a breach of clause 5.1.3 of the code.
7.11 My jurisdiction in deciding on an outcome is set out in clause 34 of the TDR code. My jurisdiction to impose a financial penalty is limited to costs the customer has been exposed to. There is no scope to impose a compensatory sanction where this doesn’t relate to out-of-pocket costs. I have not received any submissions on any alleged costs or breach of contract.
7.12 I do not have jurisdiction under the code to order installation by a particular date and I have limited jurisdiction to sanction the wholesale scheme member.
8. Future actions
The scheme member and wholesale scheme member are to:
- Pursuant to para 34.4 I direct the wholesale scheme member to make a formal written apology to the customer.
- The wholesale scheme member should prioritise and expedite this installation and stick to the date given on CAR consent being obtained. I was informed on 16 September when I followed up for a response regarding CAR that the installation will be further delayed, without explaining the reasons for further delay. The poor customer experience the customer has had to date has continued even following TDR involvement and my proposed decision criticising the wholesale scheme member’s conduct of this matter to date.
- The wholesale scheme member have committed to installing the customer’s fibre in short order, with full communication on timelines. This hasn’t happened, even from my proposed decision criticising the wholesale scheme member’s communication. The wholesale scheme member should consider how it can best meet its customer care obligations regarding communication and service, including the potential for manager oversight.
- The wholesale scheme member is to provide complete information regarding any issues impacting the customer’s installation pre-emptively (rather than the customer needing to chase for information via the RSM). This hasn’t happened from the proposed decision to this final decision, with me needing to follow up with the wholesale scheme member to get an update on CAR.
- The wholesale scheme member is to provide regular accurate and up-to-date time estimates pre-emptively (rather than the customer needing to chase for information via the RSM). An update should be provided at least weekly until installation is completed.