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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has applauded the expansion of Medicare-subsidised telehealth services for all Australians. However, the peak body for communications consumers cautioned that the full benefits of telehealth may not be realised if Australians are not online.

“While it is pleasing that the Government has listened to the medical community and made bulk-billed telehealth services available for all Australians, the underlying issue of connectivity remains,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

A coalition of nearly 30 community sector organisations and advocates has urged the Federal Government to address the affordability of communications services and equipment to support Australians in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety Cyber and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, cross-sector community organisations including Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), CHOICE, The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), and The Smith Family outlined several recommendations that would enable communities to keep connected, work remotely, and access essential services such as education, government services, and telehealth.

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) has welcomed NBN Co’s new measures to support better bush comms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communications services are a vital utility. As more people work from home and students are asked to study remotely, households will require more data to keep connected. NBN Co’s offer of an additional 45GB of data for nbn Sky Muster customers over the next three months will allow regional consumers greater flexibility to engage with education, telehealth, businesses and government services without worrying about exceeding their data cap.

Video Relay on the NRS is experiencing longer wait times, due to staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other NRS call channels may also experience longer wait times.

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Call centres for Telstra, Vodafone, Optus, ALDI Mobile, and some other telcos have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. This means that there is likely to be extended wait times if you contact their customer support teams via phone or instant chat.

TPG has closed their call centre support so you will need to contact them through the online chat support.

Belong have also closed their call centre and are working at a reduced capacity. They have advised it may take over 48 hours to respond to requests for support. More information about supports available is available on their blog.

Telcos have asked customers to use self-service channels (such as the My Optus app, the Telstra 24x7 app, or MyVodafone) to trouble-shoot their issues where possible.

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Each telco has their own assistance packages available for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic. These can include financial assistance, free phone calls, and free additional data.

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Illutration showing communication of Telco response to COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing social distancing and self-isolation efforts have resulted in millions of Australians increasingly relying on their phone and home broadband services.

Unfortunately, some Australians are at risk of being left behind because they are unable to afford a home broadband service. As this becomes the main way that people can study, work, and access telehealth services from home – this is simply not acceptable. ACCAN is calling for affordable home broadband to be prioritised now.

A coalition of nearly 30 community sector organisations and advocates has urged the Federal Government to address the affordability of communications services and equipment to support Australians in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community Sector Organisations Call on Government to Act on Communications Affordability Issues

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To help communications consumers understand the latest updates from the telco sector and how consumers may be affected, ACCAN will updating our live blogs with new developments as they occur.

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The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has urged the Federal Government to prioritise a specific stimulus strategy for telecommunications services to keep Australians connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continuing social distancing and self-isolation efforts have resulted in millions of Australians increasingly relying on their home broadband service. As Australia’s peak body representing telecommunications consumers, ACCAN is calling on the Government to fast-track a proposal for a wholesale broadband concession that would provide financially stressed Australians with cheaper home broadband.

ACCAN has made a submission in response to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights and Technology Discussion Paper. This follows our 2018 submission in response to the Human Rights and Technology Issues Paper.

The Discussion Paper considers possible responses to the human rights challenges and opportunities brought about by new and emerging technologies. It consolidates the responses to previous rounds of consultation, and outlines the Australian Human Rights Commission’s thinking on a range of issues. In the Discussion Paper, the Australian Human Rights Commission offers a range of proposals designed to address the impact that new and emerging technologies have on human rights. This includes discussion of the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AI-informed decision making, and of accessible technologies.

ACCAN has made a submission to the South Australian Fire and Emergency Service Commission in response to the independent review of the 2019/20 bushfire season. ACCAN’s submission focused on the impact of bushfires on communications infrastructure and reliability, and how this affected communications consumers.

The ACMA is reviewing the Telecommunications (Provision of Pre-Selection) Determination 2015 to assess whether it remains fit-for-purpose. The Determination outlines the requirement for telco service providers to allow consumers to use ‘pre-selectable services’. Pre-selection allows consumers with landline phones on the copper network to use one telco service provider for local calls to other landline phones, but another provider for other types of calling, to mobile or international numbers for example.

ACCAN has no objection to the ACMA taking steps to withdraw the Determination, so long as the ACMA is certain there will be minimal impact on residential and small businesses consumers. Should the Determination be withdrawn, any consumers with pre-selectable services activated on their account need to be provided with adequate information and support while transitioned away from these services.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has called on the nation’s telecommunications networks to ensure that no Australian is left offline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the world is undoubtedly entering uncertain times, it has been widely acknowledged that telecommunications networks will have an increasingly important role in keeping consumers connected. COVID-19 is expected to highlight the now vital role of reliable telecommunications services in the everyday lives of Australians, whether for work, education, health, or social use.

“The fact is that an internet connection is now a basic utility,” said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin. “If people can’t afford to be online, or aren’t guaranteed a reliable connection, there can be serious consequences.”

For World Consumer Rights Day 2020, ACCAN looks at how consumers can do their part to promote sustainability in the telco sector.

Sustainability is an evolving issue for industries around the world. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the way that we produce and consume goods and services, including in the telco sector.

Nearly 90% of Australians now own a mobile phone1. For many of us, they have become the go-to device to keep in touch socially and for work, to take photos, and to navigate from place to place. As mobile phones continue to evolve to include features like foldable screens and multi-lens cameras, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what resources go into making these smart devices.

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ACCAN recently submitted to the Department of Home Affairs consultation on the draft voluntary Internet of Things (IoT) Code of Practice. The Department of Home Affairs drafted the voluntary Code to help protect consumers from the potential security and privacy threats posed by IoT connected devices.

The lack of effective security and privacy protections often found in IoT devices mean they are a gateway for hackers to gain unauthorised access to private in-home Wi-Fi networks. Connected devices also collect vast amounts of sensitive personal data for advertising and other purposes which can be accessed by fraudsters.

Last year, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) commissioned research into the quality of live captions on Free-to-Air TV. We commissioned this research after receiving feedback from consumers and our members about the quality of live captions on TV.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is seeking feedback on the design and implementation of an online Digital Technology Hub. The Digital Technology Hub will support regional, rural and remote Australians to make the most of their phone and internet services. The Digital Technology Hub is intended to provide information and resources to people in non-metropolitan areas, to help them solve issues with their phone and internet.

ACCAN supports the introduction of a Digital Tech Hub for people in regional and remote areas of Australia. Our submission listed a number of recommendations for the Department to adopt, so that the Digital Tech Hub targets the diverse needs of regional Australians, builds on existing knowledge, and is widely publicised.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed the announcement of additional identity checks as a positive step towards protecting mobile phone users against scammers.

The introduction of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)’s new Telecommunications (Mobile Number Pre-porting Additional Identity Verification) Industry Standard 2020 aims to prevent fraudulent number porting by requiring telcos to apply stronger identity checks before they transfer a mobile phone number to another provider.

New complaints data highlights the growing impact that unreliable telco services have on small businesses, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

The Quarter 2 Complaints report released today by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) shows that while overall phone and internet complaints are declining, the percentage of complaints coming from small businesses continues to increase.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, previously named the Department of Communications and Arts, is looking to trial alternative ways of delivering voice (home phone) services in regional, rural and remote (RRR) areas. The Department is focusing particularly on areas in the high capacity radio concentrator (HCRC) footprint, where voice services are delivered via radio technology, rather than copper or via the Internet.

The Department is seeking feedback on how the trials should be designed, run and evaluated. ACCAN supports the trials as a welcome step towards delivering quality and reliable voice services in regional, rural and remote areas. We argued that a number of improvements could be made to the Department’s proposal, including: introducing performance benchmarks for trial services, developing minimum service assurances for participating consumers, and developing robust feedback mechanisms for all trial participants.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) conducted a consultation regarding proposed amendments to the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2019. This Determination imposes requirements on carriers, carriage service providers and emergency call persons (Telstra and the National Relay Service provider) regarding access to the emergency call service (000, 112, 106). This consultation was in response to issues raised by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation.

ACCAN recently submitted to the ACMA’s review of the NBN consumer experience rules.

The rules focus on improving the way the telco industry handles consumer complaints about the NBN, provides information about the NBN to consumers, and ensures consumers have access to a working service. The consumer experience rules also provide for the regulation of the migration of services from the legacy network onto the NBN.

ACCAN has provided a brief submission to the Communications Alliance review of Guideline G660:2018, Assisting Customers Experiencing Domestic and Family Violence. This Guideline offers education to telco providers about the impacts of domestic and family violence and how they can help customers who are experiencing domestic or family violence.

In our response, ACCAN outlined that more information is needed about whether the Guideline is currently being used by telcos. Once more is known about the use of the Guideline, ACCAN believes that the intended audience of certain parts of the Guideline could be reviewed to make it more user friendly for telco staff. We also suggested that the length of the Guideline could be reviewed given the length of other industry guidance notes regarding domestic and family violence.

The summary below outlines ACCAN's activities from 1 September – 30 November 2019.

ACCAN recently submitted to ACMA’s Draft Telecommunications (Mobile Number Pre-Porting Additional Identity Verification) Industry Standard 2020. ACMA drafted the Standard to help prevent the unauthorised porting of mobile service numbers and reduce the damage done to consumers from this activity.

Mobile number fraud is a gateway to identity and financial theft. ACCAN is aware of numerous reports by victims of fraudulent number porting which reinforce the need for stronger protections.

ACCAN recently submitted to the Department of Communications and the Arts review of the 2015 Telecommunications in New Developments (TIND) Policy. The policy governs the development of telecommunications infrastructure in new greenfields sites and competition between private sector infrastructure providers and NBN Co.

ACCAN is regularly contacted by consumers residing in non-NBN networked new areas that are experiencing poor service outcomes through slow or intermittent services, while facing higher than competitive retail prices for services that are often lower value than their NBN alternative. However, systematic evidence of poor outcomes is limited due to the opacity of current reporting arrangements.

ACCAN recently submitted to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the NBN inquiry into the business case for the NBN and experience of small businesses.

The Committee is inquiring into the rollout of the NBN and the performance of NBN Co. in relation to its key financial and economic forecasts, coverage, the delivery of services to small and medium businesses, as well as pricing and in particular the effect of pricing on low-income and rural and regional consumers.

As bushfires continue to burn across the country, a reliable phone service quickly becomes a lifeline.

ACCAN is aware of reports of network outages due to blackouts and power failures in bushfire affected areas. It’s important to know that unless you have a battery back-up, your NBN home phone will not work during a power outage. As a precaution, it is best to have a charged mobile phone that you can use during a power outage.

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Brick building with EMERGENCY sign

When disaster strikes, you want to be able to call for help. As Australia makes the switch to the NBN, it’s important to know that traditional methods of connecting to emergency services may not work.

In the event of a power outage, phone and internet services provided over the NBN network will not work. This will also affect any medical alarms or security alarms that you may have which connect through the NBN.

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In December 2019, ACCAN submitted to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee consultation on the telecommunications legislative reform package. The consultation focused on two Bills under consideration by the Federal Parliament – the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Competition and Consumer) Bill and the Telecommunications (Regional Broadband Scheme) Charge Bill.

ACCAN magazine Summer 2019

Download: pdfACCAN Magazine Issue 34 Summer 2019985.51 KB

Download accessible version: docxACCAN Magazine Issue 34 Summer 201938.91 KB

Image shows a rectangluar present with Merry Christmas printed across the wrapping paper. It has a red bow on the top left hand corner.As we head into the festive season, many of us will be thinking about what new gadget we’d like to find under the Christmas tree or snap up in the Boxing Day sales. With the telcos stepping up their advertising around 5G, many people have started to look into purchasing 5G phones and home broadband plans. If you’re keen to be one of these early-adopters, don’t sign on the dotted line before you’ve read our tips below.

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Telco customers will benefit from clearer communication from their providers; however, further efforts will be needed to protect consumers against unreliable telco services, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Released today, the Morrison Government’s Consumer Safeguards Review Part B report provides a high-level framework that aims to address reliability issues of telco services at the wholesale and retail level.

 glenn carstens peters EOQhsfFBhRk unsplashACCAN welcomes the Government’s recent announcement that it will provide a total of $4 Million in funding to the national broadcasters, ABC and SBS, to introduce audio described broadcast content in the 2020/21 financial year. ACCAN, along with Australia’s blindness sector and consumer groups have been advocating for the introduction of audio description across free-to-air television for many years.

Audio description is a verbal narration of visual elements of programming. The narration coincides with the program’s audio track with the description interspersed between dialogue.

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ACCAN recently submitted to the ACCC’s inquiry into NBN Access Pricing. The inquiry examined the possibility of ACCC regulating the price of entry level NBN services, in order to facilitate consistent pricing for services that are equivalent to legacy ADSL internet services.

ACCAN is supportive of measures being taken to allow for consumers to smoothly transition to NBN services without facing material increases in the price of their existing service.

Although broadly supportive of the ACCC’s inquiry, ACCAN argued that:

  • The best approach to providing pricing relief is through the introduction of a funded concessional broadband service for low income households;
  • If pricing regulation of the NBN is implemented, it should be applied to the 25/5Mbps speed tier rather than the 12/1Mbps speed tier;
  • The proposed retail price point of $60 for (a 12/1Mbps service) was well in excess of what many consumers can afford to pay.

The telco industry peak body, Communications Alliance, is reviewing the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND) Code. The IPND is a secure database that stores all listed and unlisted public numbers assigned to communications services. These include numbers assigned to a telephone, fax machine, or connected device like a tablet or car that can make and receive calls via Bluetooth. The IPND includes information about the service, including the name of the customer, the telco that provides the number, and the where the ‘service address’ is (that is, the street address where the customer lives or where telephone service is located).

The IPND Code sets out rules for telcos that supply information to the IPND, and for anyone that uses information from the IPND. In a 2018 review of the IPND, the ACMA found that a large portion of information was inaccurate. The IPND Code is being updated to make sure that telcos frequently compare their customer information with information in the IPND, and correct any discrepancies that are discovered.

The ACMA is reviewing rules about international mobile roaming (IMR) for Australian telcos. They have proposed that International Mobile Roaming rules should be applied via a service provider determination, rather than an industry standard. This makes the rules administratively simpler to change and increases the maximum penalty for non-compliance. The ACMA has proposed a few other updates to mobile roaming regulation with the intention of making the rules more flexible for customers and telcos.

ACCAN supports of some, but not all, of the proposed changes. We agree with the tightening of existing International Mobile Roaming rules. However, we are concerned that some flexibility measures are too discretionary, and fail to provide appropriate consumer protections.

ACCAN made a submission to the House of Representatives inquiry into 5G in Australia. ACCAN highlighted the need for whole of community engagement in the roll-out of 5G across Australia, emphasising the role that the telecommunications industry and government agencies need to undertake to ensure that consumer information is easily accessible, reliable and evidence based.

ACCAN participated on the review of the industry code, C625 Information on Accessible Features for Telephone Equipment Code. The Code requires handset manufacturers to provide information about the accessibility features on their handsets to telcos. It also requires that handset manufacturers make this same information freely available to consumers. The updated Code also includes ACCAN’s Accessible Telecoms service as an alternative way for consumers to get information about accessibility features for handsets.

Telcos must play their part if consumers are to benefit from changes to NBN Co’s wholesale pricing and data capacity, according to the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Changes announced today by NBN Co will give telcos more flexibility in what they can offer their customers, starting with a reduction in the wholesale price of a modified 25Mbps service from December 2019. Importantly, these changes to 25Mbps services will affect both fixed line and fixed wireless plans, which mean that households in both metropolitan and regional areas should be able to benefit from cheaper broadband and better options. However, this is entirely dependent on telcos passing the changes on to their customers.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) recently sought feedback on its Draft Privacy Safeguard Guidelines for the Consumer Data Right (CDR) regime. The Guidelines explain the Information Commissioner’s interpretation of the privacy safeguards and Consumer Data Rules, and provide examples of how the privacy safeguards and Consumer Data Rules may apply in certain situations. As the CDR regime will be extended to the telecommunications sector in the future, after first being implemented in the banking and energy sectors, ACCAN provided a response to the OAIC’s Guidelines.

Missed NBN appointments are costing Australians over $15 million per year in lost time, according to analysis from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

The staggering financial impact of NBN Co’s 320 missed appointments per day1 was revealed in ACCAN’s response to the ACCC’s draft decision on the NBN wholesale service standards inquiry.

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.

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 recently submitted to the Australian Treasury’s consultation about the implementation of the recommendations of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report. The Final Report provided recommendations to:

  • Promote competition among the services offered by digital platforms;
  • Enhance privacy protections for consumers;
  • Provide for a dedicated external dispute resolution body for consumers seeking to make a complaint about digital platforms; and
  • Prohibit certain unfair trading practices and terms currently faced by consumers.

ACCAN strongly supports the contents of the final report and our submission outlines how we believe that the recommendations can be progressed over the coming months.

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

 

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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 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 project imageWESNET (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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ACCAN believes that everyone must have equal, reliable and appropriate access to the emergency call service (Triple Zero) from a range of devices. Our position is that people should be able to use SIMless phones to genuinely contact Triple Zero as needed.

Proposals to reduce non-genuine calls to Triple Zero have included barring calls from SIMless devices. There are several situations when calls to Triple Zero appear to come from SIMless devices. ACCAN recommends more research into whether devices without SIMs represent a high proportion of all non-genuine calls made to Triple Zero.

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

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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.