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ACCAN has submitted to the ACCC’s consultation concerning its draft decision on Wholesale Service Standards. The purpose of the inquiry is to determine whether NBN wholesale service levels are appropriate and to consider whether a determination on service levels is required to improve customer outcomes. ACCAN has long advocated for reform of existing customer service guarantees surrounding connection timeframes, fault rectification and network reliability.

Overview

Google and ACCAN in partnership are offering a paid internship to commence in December 2019 to undertake a project addressing a consumer technology issue. The Intern will also work alongside ACCAN staff to solve issues faced by consumers of technology services, and gain experience in a consumer technology advocacy (policy) role. Candidates resident in Australia and attending, or recently graduated from, an Australian university are welcome to apply.

Eligibility

The internship is available for undergraduate (final year) students, postgraduate students and recent graduates of arts, business, computer science, engineering, law, sociology, or other related disciplines. Candidates must be Australian citizens or have Australian residency or be undertaking study at an Australian university. The ACCAN workplace is culturally diverse and actively ensures people with disability can participate effectively.

Selection Criteria

The preferred applicant will be one that is of the highest quality and demonstrates the clearest grasp of analytical processes, research techniques and methods. Academic record will be taken into account.

NBN Co’s proposed wholesale pricing changes are unlikely to meet the needs of consumers, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

In September, NBN Co released a consultation paper to the telco industry that aimed to increase the number of households connected to the NBN. While the proposals outlined in this paper show that NBN Co is listening to ACCAN’s concerns about the current wholesale pricing arrangements, there is still considerable work to be done to ensure that consumers’ needs and expectations of their home broadband service are met.

“While we’re pleased that NBN Co has acknowledged broadband affordability is an important issue for many Australians, we’re concerned their proposals will not address this vital problem,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

NBN Co is consulting on options to change its wholesale prices to lift the demand for its broadband services, and on options for managing network usage to make services more attractive for retailers and consumers. Unusually, NBN Co has published its consultation paper, a move supported by ACCAN.

The Department of Home Affairs has been undertaking consultation around the development of Australia’s next Cyber Security Strategy. The current Cyber Security Strategy was written in 2016 and set goals to be completed over four years.

ACCAN has responded to the Department of Home Affairs’ discussion paper, to ensure that the experiences of consumers, including small businesses, are reflected in the 2020 Cyber Security Strategy. In our submission we focused on consumer concerns about cyber security, including the impact that cybercrimes have on consumers, including small businesses; the information asymmetry that can exist between consumers and manufacturers; and the threats to consumer privacy that can occur due to cyberattacks or insecure connected devices.

The increase in complaints about internet services to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) highlights the need for greater reliability safeguards, says the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

The TIO’s quarterly report shows that of the 32,801 complaints they received from 1 July– 30 September 2019, the majority (33 per cent) were related to internet issues. This is a 4 per cent increase from the same period last year.

The Australian Media and Communication Authority’s reported drop in telco complaints shows that consumers are starting to benefit from increased industry regulation and new complaint handling rules, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

The Department of the Treasury, as one of the agencies involved in the implementation of the Consumer Data Right (CDR) regime, recently appointed Maddocks lawyers to conduct an independent privacy impact assessment regarding the initial implementation of the CDR. Maddocks has completed their draft privacy impact assessment report and requested stakeholder feedback on this draft.

Given that the CDR regime will be extended to the telecommunications sector, after first being implemented in the banking and energy sectors, ACCAN has been engaging with issues relating to the CDR and its implementation. This includes a short response to Maddocks’ draft privacy impact assessment.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) inquiry, about the ACCC’s Final Access Determination (FAD) on price and non-price terms.

The summary below outlines ACCAN's activities from 1 June – 31 August 2019.

 

 

ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin recently spoke at the CommsDay Congress, a telecommunications industry event attended by regulators, consumer groups, telco executives and government representatives. Ms Corbin spoke about ACCAN's work highlighting the need for affordable broadband, the importance of Accessible Telecoms, and why we need reliable telecommunications services.

Her speech is available below.

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Woman using a mobile phone The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts’ announced changes to the regulation of mobile-porting in Australia’s telco sector.

Fraudulent mobile number porting happens when a scammer uses consumers’ personal details to port their mobile number from one provider to another.

ACCAN Magazine Issue 33 Spring 2019 Cover

 

Download: pdfACCAN Magazine Issue 33 Spring 20191.52 MB

Download accessible version: docxACCAN Magazine Issue 33 Spring 201934.54 KB 

 

MoneyMob Photograph MoneyMob Talkabout

Grant Round: 2019

Amount: $50,000

 

Deakin2019  IoT 01Deakin University

Grant Round: 2019

Amount: $76,195

The Panel assesses applications to ACCAN's Independent Grants Program and recommends the strongest applications to the ACCAN Board for funding. The Panel meet face-to-face to discuss proposals, and in addition via teleconferences, email discussion and hold separate reviews of grant applications as needed. 

The fall in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) highlights the positive power of effective industry regulation, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Complaints data published today in the TIO’s Annual Report 2018-2019 shows that complaints about phone and internet services fell 21.1 per cent in the last financial year. Among these 132,387 complaints, the TIO identified over 50 possible systemic issues, of which over a third were refer to regulators.

ACCAN’s efforts will be focused on the following priority areas in 2019-20. At the same time, we will be responsive to emerging issues, and engage with government and industry consultations in areas of significance for telecommunications consumers.

Our policy priorities were developed in close consultation with ACCAN members, and are informed by our knowledge and analysis of the communications market.

The Regional Connectivity Program is part of the Government’s $220 million Stronger Regional Digital Connectivity Package. It was announced in the Government’s response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.

The Regional Connectivity Program will complement the NBN, the Mobile Black Spot Program and commercial investment plans of telco providers. The $60 million funding of the Regional Connectivity Program includes:

  • A competitive grants program
  • A digital technology hub
  • Alternative voice service trials in remote areas
  • Further development of the Universal Service Guarantee

The Department of Communications and the Arts is consulting on the application framework for grants to build communications infrastructure in rural, regional and remote communities.

This consultation focused on the design of the competitive grants program.

ACCAN wrote a submission supporting the Department’s approach and made a number of additional suggestions in order to ensure the program provides money to the communities that most need it.

‘Standards Australia is reviewing the ways in which it distributes and licenses its standards. Standards are documents that set a benchmark for how something should be done or made by an individual, company, or industry. They can be adopted into regulation or legislation. Standards Australia has been investigating how to license and distribute standards in a way that delivers:

  • Greater reach for Standards Australia’s content,
  • Better awareness and use of standards,
  • Financial sustainability.

A report released today by the nation’s independent infrastructure advisor, Infrastructure Australia, affirms ACCAN’s position that home broadband is unaffordable for many households.

As Australia’s voice for phone and internet users, ACCAN has highlighted the need for more affordable home broadband options for Australian consumers. The 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit supports this view, describing telecommunications as essential to participating in society, however noting that there are “challenges that must be overcome to ensure that no Australian is left behind in the digital world, in terms of digital literacy, access and affordability.”

The Government has contracted ACCAN to research the ways in which people who are Deaf, Deafblind, or have hearing or speech impairment use the new Accesshub website.

Accesshub is a telecommunications information website provided by the Australian Government. Accesshub provides a range of information resources about how to use the National Relay Service (NRS) as well as information about mainstream communications equipment and services which may be suitable alternatives to the national relay service for some people. 

The focus groups will be held in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart with people who use the NRS and have used Accesshub. We are interested in how you currently use the Accesshub website, what you think about it, and how it could be improved. Participants will receive a $100 gift card to thank them for participating in the project. Light refreshments will also be provided.

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ACCAN is seeking nominations for Directors to fill three (3) vacancies on its Board.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution, the 2019-2020 ACCAN Board will consist of nine (9) members1. Six (6) positions are continuing Directors from the 2018-2019 Board. Three (3) Directors are retiring from the Board but may be eligible for re-election as stated in the ACCAN Constitution.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution Board members are elected for a three year term.

In order to ensure an appropriate balance, the Board is particularly seeking candidates with legal and regulatory expertise or experience; and/or experience in financial management and governance in a not for profit organisation; and/or with lived experience of disability; and/or an understanding of the issues affecting young consumers and/or small businesses.

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Concerned red-headed young woman looks at phone, she is backgrounded with streams of personal dataUTS School of Communication

Grant round: 2017-18

Amount: $55,302

Man using a laptop

The NBN provides the wires that deliver broadband and fixed phone services to your home. Your telco pays the NBN owner, nbn co, to use the NBN and sell you broadband. This means that the service that you get from your telco is directly related to the service that nbn co gives telcos. This includes how long it takes to connect broadband customers, whether appointments with technicians are kept, the number and length of outages you may experience, or the speed of your broadband at different times of day.

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has conducted a second-round of consultation on the Emergency Call Service (ECS) Determination. A draft ECS Determination 2019 was provided for comment, in which a number of changes have been made based on the results of the first consultation process (completed in November 2018). It also outlines options for a trial of alternative call handling methods for SIM-less calls to the ECS.

woman talking on a mobile phone

Telstra is once again making changes to its mobile phone plans. If you are an existing Telstra mobile customer, this may impact you.

From 26 August 2019, Telstra will be moving hundreds of thousands of customers off their old mobile phone plans and onto one of Telstra’s new plans.

Starting this week, Telstra is contacting customers who will be affected by this move. It’s important that you keep an eye out on your email inbox or letter box so that you know if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of customers who will be impacted by these changes.

 

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ACCAN often hears stories from consumers spending hours waiting and trying to resolve problems with telcos (eg on the phone, in shops, or via chat windows). We know that all this time has a value to consumers but what is the cost?

A new report released from ACCAN provides advice on how to estimate the cost of consumer wait time.

Download: docxPlease hold - costing telco customer wait times840.49 KB

Download: pdfPlease hold - costing telco customer wait times1020.88 KB

 

Young woman in yellow shirt on smart phone looks at watch
ACCAN often hears stories from consumers spending hours waiting and trying to resolve problems with telcos (eg on the phone, in shops, or via chat windows). We know that all this time has a value to consumers but what is the cost?

A new report released today from ACCAN provides advice on how to estimate the cost of consumer wait time.

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Appearing at ACCAnect 2019 - Delia Rickard - Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Nerida O'Loughlin – Chair of the ACMA and Judi Jones - Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

At ACCAN's national conference, ACCANect 2019, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from experts from across the telco industry, including Delia Rickard - Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Nerida O'Loughlin – Chair of the ACMA and Judi Jones - Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. 

These three organisation protect and enforce telco consumer safeguards in Australia. While they each handle different aspects of telco consumer protection, together they work towards safeguarding Australian telco consumers.

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Last week the communications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, announced the registration of a new version of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.

What does this mean for telecommunications consumers?

The Code is important because it contains rules that govern the life cycle of the customer’s relationship with their telco. From the telco’s advertising, to sales and contract/service agreements, through to customer service and billing, and switching telcos. It also covers rules about what telcos have to do to if customers have difficulty paying their bills, how they handle credit and debt management, and financial hardship.

The Code has been around since 2007, and this is its second major revision.

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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has called for greater reliability safeguards after data from the ACMA shows unreliable telco services are driving hundreds of thousands of complaints.

In a report released this morning, the ACMA revealed that 448,470 complaints were filed by unhappy telco consumers in the quarter to December 2018. Taking into account the number of telco services in operation across the country, this equals 108 complaints per 10,000 services – a 10.2 per cent increase since the previous quarter.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is investigating options for internal reform in the wake of recommendations from the Consumer Safeguards Review Part A: Complaints handling and consumer redress. The first part of this investigation relates to possible changes to the TIO Constitution to reform the structure and selection of its Board. ACCAN’s response to the TIO Option Paper proposed a number of changes to enhance the independence of the TIO Board and strengthen the consumer perspective in Board matters.

The peak body for the telecommunications industry, Communications Alliance, has conducted a preliminary consultation on a Draft Industry Guidance Note about appointment of Authorised Representatives and Advocates. Authorised representatives are usually lawyers, financial counsellors or family members of customers who need assistance managing their telco affairs.

The Draft Guidance Note provides recommendations about how telcos should go about authorising representatives who act on behalf customers.

Communications Alliance will be consulting further on the Guidance Note in September 2019.

In our written feedback, ACCAN proposed that substantial adjustments be made to improve the efficiency and fairness of the authorisation process.

Man and woman looking at bill, distressed

The revised Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) Code fails to adequately protect telco consumers, according to consumer groups.

Despite consultation with the telco industry and regulator, consumer groups including ACCAN, Consumer Action Law Centre, WEstjustice, Financial Counselling Australia, Financial and Consumer Rights Council, Financial Rights Legal Centre, Money Mob, and HK Training and Consultancy, consider that the new TCP Code does not provide strong enough consumer protections.

Australia’s peak communications consumer advocacy group, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), has today announced the seven successful projects that it will fund through the 2019 Round of the ACCAN Grants Program.


The ACCAN Grants Program funds projects to undertake research on telecommunications issues, represent telecommunications consumers, and create educational tools which empower consumers to understand telecommunications products and services and make decisions in their own interests.

WESNET (Women's Services Network) Incorporated

Grant round: 2019

Amount: $49,807

WEstjustice

Grant Round: 2019

Amount: $50,000

SACOSS (South Australian Council of Social Service)

Grant Round: 2019

Amount: $99,112

Monash University, Department of Media and Communication Studies

Grant round: 2019

Amount: $49,579

First Nations Media Australia

Grant round: 2019

Amount: $49,670

The summary below outlines ACCAN's activities from 1 March 2019 – 31 May 2019.

As Australia’s consumer voice on phone and internet issues, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed NBN Co’s recently announced Wholesale Pricing Review Consultation Paper.

ACCAN has strongly championed the need for affordable home broadband in Australia. High-cost broadband services make accessing important education, employment, health and government services very difficult for our communities.

ACCAN has made some submissions to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) regarding caption exemption draft orders for Fetch TV, Foxtel Cable Television, Optus Vision Media, Selectra and Telstra Pay TV.

In our submissions we urged the ACMA to deny the exemption applications, as Australians who rely on closed captions should be ensured the same functional access to television services as other Australians. We continue to call for equitable access to video programming, including subscription television services, for people who are Deaf or have hearing impairment.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science undertook a public consultation on Australia’s Ethics Framework in relation to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

ACCAN made a brief submission to this consultation. We outlined that consumer safeguards must be put in place to protect consumers from any unintended outcomes of new technology such as AI. We stated that compliance and enforcement procedures in relation to the ethical use of AI are necessary to protect consumers, as existing human rights, legislative and regulatory frameworks alone cannot completely protect consumers against unethical behaviour.

ACCAN recently submitted to the ACCC’s inquiry into the proposed extension of expiring non-price provisions of the NBN’s Special Access Undertaking (SAU). The SAU sets out the terms on which service providers can access NBN infrastructure.

The expiring provisions are about:

    • consultation processes for the design of products and pricing by NBN;
    • dispute resolution processes; and
    • arrangements to modify network technology design.

NRS tender outcomeThe Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the Federal Government’s appointment of a service provider for the National Relay Service (NRS).

The NRS allows Australians who are Deaf or have hearing or speech impairment to access telecommunications services through the phone, web or teletypewriter (TTY). It is a vital service that allows its users to communicate for work, socially, and in emergencies.

“All Australians deserve the right to reliable communications whether they access it through traditional telco technology or through the NRS,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is reviewing ways to combat scams carried out over telco networks (via phone, email and SMS) as a part of their Scam Technology Project. They invited public feedback on ways technology can block and minimise this type of scam activity, how consumers experience and avoid scams, and current challenges to stopping scam activity. ACCAN’s submission focuses on the consumer experience of scams, and how to improve consumer education about scam activity.

The NBN Transfer Code sets out principles for industry co-operation in the management of transfers of NBN services between retail service providers. Recently, the NBN Transfer Code was reviewed by the Communications Alliance.

In our submission ACCAN recommended that the Code be reconfirmed, and that:

  • the code be revised to include time-frames for the transfer of services;

  • the code be revised to oblige providers to inform consumers if a fault occurs in the transfer process;

  • the code incorporate reference to the Australian Privacy Principles for smaller providers in order to ensure a consistent industry wide approach to privacy.

Calling Number Display (CND) allows the people you call to see your telephone number displayed on the screen of their telephone. It applies to both mobile phones and landlines. If you don't have a silent line, unlisted number or have not blocked CND, the people you call will generally be able to see your number on their telephone screen.

The CND feature has important privacy implications because there may be times when consumers don't want their number identified to the person they are calling. Recently, the Calling Number Display Guideline was reviewed by the Communications Alliance.

In our submission ACCAN recommended that the Guideline be reconfirmed, and that:

In 2019, the telco industry is reviewing the Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code. Mobile Premium Services (MPS) allow consumers to pay for digital content (like apps or games) and services (like competition entries, voting and charity donations) on their mobile phone account or using pre-paid credit.

The MPS Code aims to safeguard consumers from an industry which has a history of poor practice.

ACCAN believes that many of the additional protections proposed in the public consultation will have little or no substantive effect on consumer outcomes due to their limited scope and applicability.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the appointment of the Hon Paul Fletcher to the position of Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts in the newly announced Coalition Cabinet.


“The next three years will bring a number of important milestones, challenges and opportunities for telecommunications in Australia,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “From the roll-out of 5G, to the anticipated completion of the NBN network, we look forward to working with Minister Fletcher during this exciting time to achieve better outcomes for consumers.”

Person using the computerHow much data do I need?

The data needs of every household are different, but the average household usage of data is between 80GB – 200GB per month. This means that most of the options outlined in our blog here would meet the needs of most households.

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Computer displaying various options on NetflixAlthough wireless broadband services may not compete in terms of speed with a faster fixed broadband connection, they may be suitable for many households currently on a 12mbps NBN service. If you don’t have a home phone anymore, and only use your broadband for basic internet activities like web browsing, emails and social media, it may be time to cut the cord and shift to wireless. These services use the same technology as the internet on your mobile phone.

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Man using the internet on a tablet deviceWhat’s happening?

NBN Co has recently announced a delay to the withdrawal of its discounts on the NBN 12mbps speed tier for fixed line services. The discounts were originally planned to be withdrawn at the end of May but will now stay until the end of July.

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Accessible telecoms logo

Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro

Type of device: Mobile

Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro

This device may be used with Wi-Fi or a data plan to access the internet.

This device has a touchscreen.

Accessibility Features:

      • Cognition:
        • Voice Notes
        • Simplify Display
        • GPS Capability
        • Copy and Paste
        • Simple Instructions
        • Photo Associated Telephone Book
        • Assistance Instructions
        • Simple Reminders
        • No Screen Timeout

      • Hearing:
        • Supports Closed Captioning for Web Video or Streaming
        • Front Facing Camera
        • Adjustable Maximum Volume Control
        • Two-way Video Communications
        • Visual Alerts - Electronic Message
        • Ringer Volume Adjustable
        • Messaging Options - Text Messaging/SMS
        • Visual indicators on Display - Network
        • Visual Alerts - Incoming Calls
        • Device Coupling - Bluetooth/WLAN

      • Vision:
        • Screen Reader
        • Screen Magnifier
        • High Contrast Mode
        • Display Characteristics - Colour Differentiation
        • Display Characteristics - Adjustable Brightness Control
        • Voiced Menus
        • Adjustable Font - Size
        • Adjustable Font - Style
        • Audible Cues - Battery
        • Standard Number Key Layout

      • Speech:
        • SMS Personalisation and Reuse
        • Messaging Options - Predictive Text
        • Messaging Options - MMS
        • Messaging Options - IM
        • Messaging Options - Email
        • Messaging Options - Text Messaging/SMS

      • Physical:
        • Stylus or Prosthetic Device support
        • Voice Recognition for Accessing Features
        • Voice Recognition for Dialling
        • Automatic Answer
        • Flat Back for Table Top Operation
        • Device Coupling - Bluetooth/WLAN
        • Predictive Text Input
        • Speaker-phone capable
        • Easy to Press Keys
        • Headset - plug connected

More information is available on:

Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro Website

Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro PDF User Guide

 

NDIS Logo for at resources

dev139

Accessible telecoms logoOlitech Easy Mate +

Type of device: Mobile Phone

Olitech Easy Mate Plus

This device may not be used to access the internet

This device does not have a touchscreen

Accessibility Features:

    • Cognition:
      • Voice Notes
      • Simple Instructions
      • Simple Reminders

    • Hearing:
      • Visual Alerts - Electronic Message
      • Ringer Volume Adjustable
      • Hearing Aid T-coil Coupling
      • Messaging Options - Text Messaging/SMS
      • Visual indicators on Display - Network
      • Visual Alerts - Incoming Calls

    • Vision:
      • Screen Magnifier
      • Standard Number Key Layout
      • Tactile Key Marker - '5'
      • Talking Keys

    • Speech:
      • SMS Personalisation and Reuse
      • Messaging Options - MMS
      • Messaging Options - Text Messaging/SMS

    • Physical:
      • Automatic Redial
      • Guarded/Recessed Keys
      • Easy to Press Keys
      • Lanyard Pin for key ring or Lanyard Strap
      • Headset - plug connected
      • Cradle charger

More information is available on:

Olitech Easy Mate+ PDF User Manual
Olitech You Tube videos

 

NDIS Logo

 

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Teresa Corbin CommsDay Summit 2019

ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin recently spoke at the CommsDay Summit, a telecommunications industry event attended by regulators, consumer groups, telco executives and government representatives. Ms Corbin spoke about the inadequacies of the TCP Code in protecting consumers, how Australians with disability are being underserved by the telcos when it comes to their right to appropriate and independent information, and initial outcomes from ACCAN's work highlighting the need for affordable broadband across the country.

Her speech is available below.

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The summary below outlines ACCAN's activities from 1 December 2018 – 28 February 2019.

USO tip sheet

Download: docxUniversal Service Obligation (USO) tip sheet23.95 KB

Download: pdfUniversal Service Obligation (USO) tip sheet2.63 MB

What is the telco Universal Service Obligation (USO)?

It means that you have the right to a standard fixed landline phone service provided by Telstra, regardless of where you live or work.

ACCAN Mag Cover  Autumn 2019

Download: pdfACCAN Magazine - Issue 31 Autumn 2019936.62 KB  (Note: reading order not accessible)

Download accessible version: docxACCAN Magazine Issue 31 Autumn 2019 - accessible version35.54 KB

Have you ever gone into a telecommunications store with a plan of what you wanted, but came out with something different? Something more expensive?


ACCAN often hears stories of consumers who were sold more expensive plans or products than they had planned for and sometimes, more than they can afford. This results in difficulties keeping up with payments, and kicks off a spiral of financial problems with lasting consequences. Cases of mis-selling have been widely reported in the media recently1, and continue to occur. In February 2019, poor sales practices leading to customer debt was identified by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman as a systemic issue in complaints2.

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Young woman upset over billA new report released today by Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), shows that telco customer service representatives are being encouraged to focus on selling over service, potentially exposing consumers to questionable selling practices.
 

A new report released today by Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), shows that telco customer service representatives are being encouraged to focus on selling over service, potentially exposing consumers to questionable selling practices.


The Spotlight on Telco Commissions and Targets exploratory report was commissioned following a number of troubling stories that ACCAN had received from consumers who were sold plans or products that were more expensive than they had expected or that were beyond their means.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed action by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) against Telstra, Optus and Vodafone who neglected their responsibility to provide people with disability with information about products and services that may meet their needs.

The ACMA’s formal warning comes five years after ACCAN first identified that these telcos were failing to provide appropriate information to people with disability during a mystery shopping research project. The consumer group engaged with Telstra, Optus and Vodafone to discuss the poor outcomes from this research and suggest possible pathways to improve. However, in 2016 a second round of mystery shopping proved that little had been done to implement these improvements.

 

The announcement of $220 million in funding for regional communications has been celebrated today by the Regional, Rural and Remote Communication Coalition (RRRCC) as a win for bush communications across the country.

The significant funding announcement from the Government accompanies their response to the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review.

The Rural Regional and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) welcomes today’s announcement from the Minister for Regional Services Senator Bridget McKenzie which will see regional Australians benefit from 180 new mobile base stations as part of Round 4 of the Mobile Black Spot Program.

 

For Australians living in rural, regional and remote communities, having access to reliable communications is vital. The Mobile Black Spot Program has been instrumental in making real change to these communities, with more than 1,000 mobile base stations designated to be built, expanding mobile coverage across the regions.

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) welcomed this morning’s announcement from Telstra about a program of works it is undertaking to bolster landline services in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Telstra’s announcement addresses some of the issues around reliability of landline services identified in the November 2018 report of the Regional Telecommunications Review, such as extended faults and repair times for some Telstra customers in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The ACCC is reviewing the performance standards that NBN provides to its customers (telco retailers). This includes NBN response times to fix problems on its network and get consumer premises connected. Currently, these standards and any penalties for breaches are contained in commercial contracts with NBN’s customers. The ACCC is reviewing whether further measures are required to improve NBN’s service.

The Federal Government is reviewing Telstra’s Carrier Licence as the existing one is due to expire in April 2019. The Government has proposed to maintain the existing conditions of Telstra’s licence with some minor amendments for current policies.

ACCAN has proposed that the remaking of Telstra’s licence conditions offers the opportunity to improve Telstra’s network reliability framework that reports Telstra’s network performance. Telstra’s copper network will remain important in regional areas outside the fixed NBN footprint such that improved monitoring continues to be important after the NBN is rolled out.

Parts 7 and 8 of the Telecommunications Act ensure that broadband networks operate in a similar way, and to the benefit of consumers. They require network operators to offer services to any retail providers on request (offer open access on a non-discriminatory basis) and that they must be operated separate to the retail level (wholesale only). The ultimate aim is to ensure competitive networks exist that benefit consumer by increasing choice of retail providers.

Since 2012 Telstra has had an exemption from complying with these requirements in its South Brisbane Velocity network area. Other areas of Telstra’s fibre Velocity area are also exempt. These are scattered across the country, predominantly in areas of medium density population, including retirement villages, and greenfield developments (in Western Sydney, for example). These are areas populated with low income families, and older people on fixed incomes.

Image of a calculator Telecommunication services are essential for ensuring public health and safety, promoting access to educational and employment opportunities as well as social inclusiveness. ACCAN’s Pre-Budget Submission 2019-20 identifies market gaps and provides recommendations on telecommunications initiatives that will benefit consumers including:

Accessible Broadband allows all Australians to connect to essential government servicesA new affordable home broadband product for financially stressed Australians on low incomes should be a key priority for political parties ahead of the 2019 Federal election, according to consumer organisation ACCAN.

Australia’s peak body representing telecommunications consumers, ACCAN, is urging the nation’s political parties to consider a proposal for a wholesale broadband concession that would provide financially stressed Australians with cheaper home broadband.

ACCAN considers that a 50 mbps unlimited broadband service offered at a wholesale price of $20 per month by NBN Co to households receiving government financial support to be the most effective way to achieve affordable broadband for all. This would mean eligible households would pay approximately $30 per month for unlimited broadband – almost halving the current average cost.

Initial estimates indicate that providing this concession to the 1 million plus households on the lowest incomes can be budget neutral.

Happy young school girl

The supporters of No Australian Left Offline want affordable broadband. Affordable broadband is a home internet service that enables all Australians to be online regardless of their personal circumstances or where they live, without putting them into financial stress. 

With all Australian government services to be available online by 2025, it’s more important than ever that there is No Australian Left Offline.

Over one million Australians will continue to have access to essential government services with affordable broadband. 

#NetNecessity logo

 

The benefits of this Federal budget neutral policy

Illustration of Australian map overlayed with a tablet device and data symbols

Economic benefits of affordable broadband

  • Approximately $20 billion saved through move to online services

  • Stronger economy: increases in average incomes of 0.85% per person

  • New business & employment: up to 5400 businesses formed + an additional 3400 to 6400 self-employment opportunities in areas with high NBN rollout

  • Increased tax revenue through higher economic activity, and reduced unemployment

  • Reduced cost & barriers to access for households when accessing essential services, particularly for Australians in regional and remote areas

Without affordable home broadband

  • 1 Million+ low-income households at risk of not switching over to NBN

  • Children struggle to complete homework and keep up at school

  • Young people can’t prepare for the post-school world of further training, education or employment

  • Job Seekers find it difficult to get jobs and training to lift themselves and their families out of poverty

  • Elderly or less mobile people find it harder to access support services and overcome social isolation

 

In Australia there are one million households that are at risk of not switching over to the NBN because of the cost. This limits the opportunities of these households, and threatens the underlying economics of the NBN by reducing take-up of services. Reduced take-up means lower NBN revenues and reduced capacity to provide a return to government. 

 

How can we achieve affordable broadband?

ACCAN proposes a 50 mbps unlimited broadband service offered at a wholesale price of $20 per month by NBN Co to households receiving government financial support.

This would mean eligible households would pay approximately $30 per month for unlimited broadband – almost halving the current average cost.

We estimate that providing this concession to the 1 million + households on the lowest incomes can be Federal budget neutral, and support these households to be connected.

Downloads:

Download: docNo Australian Left Offline - Policy document97.5 KB
Download: pdfNo Australian Left Offline - Policy document752.71 KB

Download:  docNo Australian Left Offline - Affordable Broadband for the regions102 KB
Download:  pdfNo Australian Left Offline - Affordable Broadband for the regions759.57 KB

Download: docxNo Australian Left Offline - Media release3.1 MB
Download: pdfNo Australian Left Offline - Media release982.99 KB

Download: pdfA3 colour brochure2.2 MB
 

Supporters of No Australian Left Offline

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The summary below outlines ACCAN's activities from 1 September – 30 November 2018.

Woman using laptopAustralians are being put at risk due to inadequate consumer protection frameworks around the reliability of telecommunications services, ACCAN has warned the Government’s latest Consumer Safeguard Review.

The Federal Government is reviewing consumer protections in telecommunications. The aim is to ascertain whether existing arrangements will be fit for purpose in an environment where NBN is the underlying infrastructure provider, and consumer use of services has changed considerably since the existing framework was developed. The review is divided into three parts:

  • Part A – Redress and Complaints Handling - completed in 2018.
  • Part B – Reliability of Services - launched in November 2018 with submissions closing 18 January 2019.
  • Part C – Choice and Fairness - expected in the first half of 2019.

Federal Election 2019   ACCANs Analysis blog post imageWith the 2019 Federal Election on its way, Labor, Liberal and the Greens have begun to announce the policies that they will take to the election.

ACCAN will be compiling the communications policies of the major parties in an effort to provide Australians with a quick and easy guide to each party’s priorities.

Please note that this is a live blog and will be updated as new policies are announced.

Last updated: 14.05.19

Woman with luggage walking towards airportThe sun is shining, cricket commentators are beginning to take over the airwaves, and barbeques across the country are being scrapped and cleaned ready for the first snags of the season; summer is coming to Australia and with it one of the nation’s busiest travel periods. Whether we’re road tripping across the country or travelling half-way across the world, many of us will find ourselves relying heavily on our phones during the summer holiday season. To help you make the most of your travel and avoid ruining your post-holiday glow with a nasty bill shock, we’ve curated our top tech travel tips.

Parts 7 and 8 of the Telecommunications Act provide an important basis to ensure that broadband networks operate in a similar way and to the benefit of consumers. They require network operators to offer services to any retail providers on request (offer open access on a non-discriminatory basis) and that they must operate separate to the retail level (wholesale only). While these specify the operation of networks, the ultimate aim is to ensure competitive networks exist that benefit consumer by increasing choice of providers.

Since 2012 Telstra have had an exemption to comply with these requirements in the South Brisbane network area. Telstra have now requested a further extension, with the Minister for Communications and the Arts has proposing an extension to January 2020 (designated day).

ACCAN Summer 2018 FRONT COVER

Download: pdfACCAN Magazine - Issue 30 Summer 2018.pdf1.23 MB (Note: reading order not accessible)

Download accessible version: docxACCAN Magazine Issue 30 Summer 2018 - accessible version.docx37.21 KB

Cotton picking machine   smallThe Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) has welcomed the recommendations of the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review: Getting it right out there.

The report is the culmination of submissions and consultative forums held across regional, rural and remote Australia to resolve the connectivity issues facing our communities now and into the future.

Man on phone surrounded by wheatACCAN welcomes the Morrison Government’s commitment to preserve the current Universal Service Obligation (USO) arrangements to guarantee fixed voice services to Australians, however stresses the urgency in extending guarantees to include broadband services through legislation.

The USO refers to the obligation to ensure that all Australians can access a Standard Telephone Service, regardless of where they live or work. Telstra is currently contracted to deliver this obligation and uses a range of technologies to do so, including its fixed copper network, and radio and wireless services.

Large windmill at sunsetRegional, rural and remote Australians will be better protected if recommendations put forward by the 2018 Regional Telecommunications Review are adopted, according to Australia’s peak body representing telecommunications consumers, ACCAN.

The report recognises the essential nature of communications in everyday life, and the necessity of improving access to telecommunications infrastructure, consumer protections and digital literacy for regional, rural and remote Australians.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has today launched Australia’s first independent information resource for telecommunications products suitable for people with disability.

Known as the Accessible Telecoms project, the interactive website and call centre will be the much needed one-stop shop for information about the accessibility features of both mainstream and assistive telecommunications equipment suitable for people with disability. It is made possible thanks to a National Readiness grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

As Australia’s peak body representing communications consumers, ACCAN has been advocating for a service that will eliminate the growing information vacuum about equipment and services suitable for people with disability in our increasingly digitally connected society.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently undertook a Review of the Emergency Call Service (ECS) Determination. The ECS Determination imposes requirements on carriers, carriage service providers and emergency call persons regarding access to the emergency call service. The purpose of this Review was to consider whether the ECS Determination is still relevant and whether its obligations remain consistent and robust. This Review was recommended by the Department of Communications and the Arts, in its report into the Triple Zero service disruptions in May 2018.

ACCAN made a submission to the ACMA’s Review, in which we provided recommendations about how the emergency call service could be made more accessible and more reliable.

RRRCCThe Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) welcomes the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network’s inquiry into the rollout of the NBN in rural and regional areas.

In December 2017, the bipartisan committee announced that it would conduct a review of the NBN, focusing on the capacity and reliability of NBN satellite, fixed wireless and fixed line networks.

RRRCCThe Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) welcomes the proposals flagged in a Department of Communications and the Arts consultation paper which focuses on the reliability of telecommunications services.

complaint imageThe Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes today’s release of the Federal Government’s report on Complaints Handling and Consumer Redress in the telecommunications industry.

As Australia’s peak body representing telecommunications consumers, ACCAN has argued that better regulation in telecommunications is needed to safeguard the interests of consumers. The Government’s report acknowledges this need.

06 Our Broadband Future FarmerThe Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) has welcomed the launch of the new Sky Muster Plus service, that will see essential internet uses, such as browsing, email and software updates, exempt from monthly data allowances.

Family using technology

Throughout our lives, we accumulate a variety of assets. In the past, these have traditionally included things such as houses, cars, finances and other tangible possessions. These assets are considered when drawing up a will in the event of our passing.

ACCAN has made a brief submission to the Senate Inquiry into Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services. We highlighted the value of Australian content for people with disability in particular, and outlined that everyone should have access to Australian content.

In our submission, ACCAN explained that some accessibility features are readily included on Australian content, whereas others aren’t available (or aren’t consistently available). This is because there are no clear legislative requirements or protections to ensure access to Australian programming across all platforms.

Man on phoneThe Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is frustrated to see that complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have increased overall in the annual report. While we acknowledge the trend is beginning to change direction1, it is important to note this is the third consecutive year that consumers have voiced discontent with the services provided by their telco. This demonstrates a clear need for improved customer service and consumer protections.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). The Assistance and Access Bill seeks to amend current legislation to facilitate access by law enforcement agencies to the content of stored communications, such as texts, emails and call data.

ACCAN has expressed serious concerns about the Bill, alongside many other Australian and global stakeholders, including those from the telecommunications industry, technology sector, human rights and consumer organisations. In its current form the Bill will provide access to consumers’ data without their knowledge or adequate judicial oversight. The Bill will act to weaken encryption systems by forcing technology companies, device manufacturers, and other relevant parties, to build into their software and systems an entry-point (or backdoor) to encrypted data.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access to and control over their data held by companies they do business with, such as banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.

In this consultation the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) asked for comments on the principles that will underpin the drafting of rules for the consumer data right, prior to the draft rules being released. The rules will provide detail about how the consumer data right is to be implemented, privacy protections for consumers and the obligations of businesses. ACCAN will comment further on the consumer data rights when the draft rules are released later this year.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access to and control over their data held by companies they do business with, such as banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.
In this consultation The Treasury is asking for further comments on the draft legislation that will underpin the consumer data right, before the legislation is introduced into Federal Parliament. ACCAN’s initial comments on the draft legislation are available here.

ACCAN lodged a submission with the ACCC on its fixed line services declaration inquiry. The inquiry relates to the services that Telstra sells on its copper network to other providers of phone and internet services.

The ACCC is proposing to maintain the regulation of the services Telstra provides for further 5 year period. ACCAN agrees with the ACCC’s position.

Once the ACCC makes its final decision, it will then consider the prices Telstra charges other providers to use its network.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) on its investigation of TPG Telecom Limited’s (TPG) proposed merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Limited (VHA).

ACCAN is supportive of the proposed merger as it is likely to lead to more sustainable competition with a positive effect for consumers in the Australian telecommunications market. 

The summary below outlines ACCAN's activities from 1 June – 31 August 2018.

Subcategories

Picture showing map of Australia and voting box exclaiming 'What communications consumers need to know for the Federal Election 2016'Do you:

Have a mobile phone? 
Use broadband? 
Watch television? 
Stream online content?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then
ACCAN’s Federal Election 2016 webpage is for you.

As the peak body for consumer representation in communications ACCAN – Australian Communications Consumer Action Network – represents your interests to get the best deal for consumers.

For the upcoming Federal Election on 2 July we have identified five communications consumer priorities for 2016. These important issues are our focus in the lead up to and after the election. See below for these priorities.

To find out more about their communications policies, we have posed a series of questions to the major political parties. When the answers are available we will post them on this webpage.

You can read further on our communications consumer priorities by clicking the links below or on the left-hand side of the screen. Get in touch with ACCAN if you have any questions on these topics.

 

Banner image for ACCAN Events picturing ACCAN CEO and industry representatives taking part in a consultative forum.

As part of our commitment to community and industry consultation, ACCAN runs and attends a number of events each year.  Our current and upcoming events are profiled on this page.  ACCAN encourages its Members to profile their communications events through our website.

If you would like any further information regarding our events, or to include your event on our site, please contact us.

You can see the transcripts and speakers' presentations from ACCANect 2019: Communications + Consumers: The next ten years on the conference event page.  If you are looking for information regarding past events it can be found in the events archive.

ACCAN administers an Independent Grants Scheme aimed to support consumer research and consumer representation that helps us achieve our strategic goals

Welcome to the ACCAN employment page.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, ACCAN, a not-for-profit organisation, maintains an accessible work environment and encourages applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, persons with disabilities and people from culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds.

ACCAN is Australia’s peak body representing the interests of all consumers in communications issues. ACCAN is an important and independent consumer voice promoting the accessibility, quality of service, affordability and availability of communications services for all Australian consumers with particular concern for vulnerable consumers whose needs are underrepresented.

  • High profile consumer body
  • Communications industry
  • Diverse, interesting role working in vibrant NGO
  • Supportive work environment
  • Sydney CBD location with easy access to public transport


The quarterly ACCAN members magazine casts a spotlight on our most recent work, discusses current trends and contains exclusive interviews with a broad range of players in the telecommunications sector. If you'd like to start receiving your own hard copy of the ACCAN magazine, simply sign up to become an ACCAN member today.

Our collection of past ACCAN members magazines are available to download below.

 

Media Releases

ACCAN's work informs public debate about consumer issues in the communications landscape.  Welcome to our collection of the latest news and current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

Sign up for ACCAN's weekly newsletter to have these news items sent to your email address each week.

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Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

Sign up for ACCAN's weekly newsletter to have these news items sent to your email address each week.

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There's no doubt communications are essential to our daily lives but with technology moving fast, sometimes it's hard to keep up!

We produce a range of tip sheets that provide simple tips and tricks to help with a range of common telecommunications issues.