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ACMA: 41 telcos failed NBN complaints process audit

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(Image: ACMA)

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has revealed that 41 telcos were not providing consumers with the minimum complaints-handling information required under a new National Broadband Network (NBN) standard.

Between July and September, the ACMA said it increased its audit and compliance activities, launching 59 new investigations, 41 of which were related to the new standard that came into effect in July.

Of these 41 telcos, two had no written complaints-handing processes on their websites; seven had “substantial deficiencies in their written processes” numbering 15 or more; and multiple did not classify their complaints or have processes for classification set out.

“Telco consumers need easy access to information about how to make a complaint and how their telco will handle that complaint. They also need to be confident that their problems will be dealt with promptly and effectively,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.

“While many providers moved swiftly to rectify the shortcomings identified by the ACMA’s audit, it is clear that not all customers are receiving the service required by the standard.

“We will now consider formal action against the telcos that continue to fail to comply.”

The report also detailed how three telcos — Digital Technologies and Telecommunications, Vocal Channels, and Southern Phone — were directed to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code; three telcos — MyRepublic, Peak Connect, and Red Telecom — were formally warned to comply with the TCP Code; Telstra was given remedial direction over its priority assistance obligations and failed to put through 1,400 Triple Zero calls; and Lycamobile was fined AU$12,600 after failing to comply with the TCP Code.

In August, the ACMA announced being able to directly enforce its new NBN migration rules, with the federal government agency’s powers backed up by the ability to commence court proceedings to seek injunctions and civil penalties of up to AU$10 million.

Publishing its compliance and enforcement statement of approach that month, the ACMA said the new regulations will ensure consumers have better access to information on NBN services, are given backup options if services are not working, and have complaints addressed faster and more effectively.

“The ACMA is putting telcos on notice that they need to fully understand the new rules and take immediate steps to embed them in their business practices,” O’Loughlin said.

“The ACMA has already commenced a targeted program of monitoring, audits, and investigations to ensure that industry is complying with the new rules.”

The ACMA had been ordered by the federal government to research NBN migration issues in August last year; in December, it then published the new consumer protections to be implemented during the migration to NBN services, after finding that connection issues may not be resolved for over 100 days on some technologies.

As a result of its investigation, the federal government agency in July introduced its final rules for the transition of consumers onto the NBN, including the requirements for line tests and copper speed tests.

Retailers are now also required to provide interim services if a customer has no access to an NBN service within three days.

O’Loughlin added that the ACMA will report regularly on industry compliance, customer experience, and enforcement activities, which could include civil penalties of up to AU$10 million on top of injunctions.

The ACMA in June unveiled its Consumer Information Standard and Service Continuity Standard, which both commenced on September 21. The former requires retail service providers (RSPs) to provide a key facts sheet to all NBN customers, while the latter ensures consumers have access to a broadband service at all times.

“Together, these rules will require telcos to specify the minimum information that telcos must provide to consumers; ‘line test’ new services to ensure that lines are working and that faults are identified early; reconnect consumers to legacy network services where readily feasible if a consumer is unable to get a working service over the NBN network; comply with minimum standards for handling of consumer complaints; and report data about the complaints they receive to the ACMA so these can be monitored,” O’Loughlin said back in April.

Last month, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reported that while complaints were up marginally for the year, they began dropping in the final quarter including across the NBN.

Complaints increased by 6.2 percent year on year, but dropped by 17.8 percent quarter on quarter in Q4.

TPG last week took out the third NBN speed-monitoring report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), delivering 88.7 percent of its maximum plan speeds overall and 88.4 percent during busy hours for downloads.

TPG likewise scored highest on average upload speeds, providing 89.2 percent of its maximum plan speeds overall and 89.1 percent during busy hours.

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Toyota lowers production goals by 15 percent for November

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The global chip shortage is impacting automakers significantly. This week, Toyota announced that it plans to cut its global production output by 15 percent in November. The reduced production is laid directly at the feet of the shortage of microprocessors needed to build modern vehicles.

Despite chopping production in November, Toyota says it is still sticking to its planned production goals for the entirety of 2021. The company has said that it plans to ramp up production in December. Toyota is the largest automaker in Japan and also builds some of its vehicles in the US.

Toyota was also forced to reduce production in September and October due to the chip shortage and other issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. For the year through March 31, Toyota reduced its production goals to 9 million vehicles representing a reduction of 300,000 units. In addition, the pandemic has significantly impacted components required to build its vehicles sourced from Malaysia and Vietnam.

Toyota says that a decline in COVID-19 infection rates in southeast Asia will allow chip manufacturers to increase output for the remainder of the year. Toyota wasn’t as impacted as some automakers by the chip shortage and pandemic because it had a stockpile of components allowing it to continue manufacturing operations.

The automaker has asked its component suppliers in southeast Asia to boost its allotment of chips and other components in December to allow it to ramp production significantly and meet its goals. Toyota spokesperson has stated that the total loss production for the automaker between September and November will be as high as 910,000 vehicles. In North America specifically, the reduced production in November will mean between 45,000 and 55,000 fewer vehicles produced.

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Porsche deliveries climb significantly despite chip shortage

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The global chip shortage impacts most automakers and has resulted in reduced shipments and production stoppages. While most automakers are seeing their deliveries decline, Porsche has seen deliveries increased by 13 percent in the first three quarters between January and September 2021. Porsche says it has delivered 217,198 vehicles around the globe.

The automaker notes that demand for its vehicles rose across all sales regions, but increased demand was particularly strong in the US. While deliveries have increased for Porsche, the automaker still says the coronavirus situation is dynamic, and it is facing challenges in procuring semiconductors. The most popular model for Porsche is the Cayenne, with deliveries of 62,451 units.

Porsche’s second most popular model was the Macan delivering 61,944 units, working out to a 12 percent increase in deliveries for that model. Its third most popular model may be a surprise to some. The electric Taycan sports car delivered 28,640 units to customers. 2021 is only the second year that model has been available, and it’s already surpassed deliveries of the iconic 911. So far, the 911 has delivered 27,972 units in the first three quarters of the year, which represents a 10 percent increase.

Porsche says the 718 Boxster and the 718 Cayman delivered 15,916 units. The four-door Porsche Panamera remains popular, delivering 20,275 units. In the US, Porsche says it delivered 51,615 vehicles in the first nine months of 2021. Those numbers represent a 30 percent increase compared to deliveries made during 2020. Across the entirety of the American continent, Porsche delivered 63,025 vehicles for a 29 percent increase compared to last year.

Interestingly, the largest single market for Porsche is China, with 69,789 vehicles delivered, representing an 11 percent gain compared to 2020. In addition, Porsche delivered 56,332 vehicles across Europe.

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AAA study finds vehicle safety systems are negatively impacted by rain

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Researchers from AAA have published a new study looking at how moderate to heavy rain affects the ability of modern vehicle safety systems to function. AAA conducted testing in a closed course environment simulating rainfall and discovered that test vehicles equipped with automatic emergency braking they were traveling at 35 mph collided with stopped vehicles 33 percent of the time during rain. Other vehicle safety features were also impacted during rain.

Other tested features include lane keeping assist, which allowed the vehicle to depart their lane 69 percent of the time during grade. AAA says that vehicle safety systems called advanced driver assistance systems are typically tested in ideal conditions. AAA believes testing standards need to be changed to incorporate real-world conditions that drivers would typically encounter.

Safety systems rely on cameras and sensors to visualize markings on the road, cars, pedestrians, and other obstacles. AAA’s Greg Brannon says people don’t always drive around in perfect sunny weather and test methods need to be changed to take real-world conditions into account. AAA says its research found rain had the biggest effect on vehicle safety systems.

However, they also stimulated other environmental conditions, including bug impacts and dirt. The results found that driving in simulated moderate to heavy rain impacted both safety systems. Automatic emergency braking engaged while approaching a stopped vehicle in the lane ahead at 25 mph but resulted in collision 17 percent of the time.

When speeds were increased to 35 mph, collisions occurred 33 percent of the time. Overall, during testing, lane keeping assist veered outside of lane markers 69 percent of the time. Researchers said that when testing systems with a simulated dirty window stamped with a concentration of bugs, dirt, and water, only minor differences in performance were noted. However, cameras can be influenced by a dirty windshield, and AAA says it’s important that drivers keep the windshield clean.

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