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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. 

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ACCAN is disappointed that complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have increased by a massive 41.1 per cent during 2016-17. This rise in complaints is reflective of the experiences we are hearing from consumers and indicates there are systemic issues with customer service in the industry. Customer service was the top complaint issue overall. The report shows that all services and providers saw an increase in complaints indicating a genuine need to update consumer protections.

“We are very concerned about the significant, across the board, increase in complaints for landline, mobile and internet services,” said ACCAN Deputy CEO, Narelle Clark. “This reverses the previous downward trend in complaint levels. We are therefore calling on all providers to lift their game and act to immediately improve customer service and the consumer experience.”

ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, discussed a range of telecommunications consumer issues in a speech today at the CommsDay Melbourne Congress. In particular, Ms Corbin outlined issues related to nbn’s Special Access Undertaking (SAU) and consumer issues relating to the NBN rollout.

The SAU is a document that establishes the regulatory regime of the National Broadband Network for the next 23 years. ACCAN believes some of the charges proposed in the SAU are unfair for consumers.

“The proposed charge of $150 for consumers who are unable to self-install, for missed appointments or late cancellation of appointments may negatively impact on some vulnerable consumers,” said Ms Corbin. “We are also concerned about the removal of requirements to make rollout information available to the public. Access to this information is useful to many organisations and consumers.”

ACCAN’s 2017 National Conference, ACCANect: Your place in the connected world, will focus on consumer issues related to our increased connectivity and the digital world. It’s being held at the Aerial UTS Function Centre in Sydney over the next two days.

“Digital technology has transformed consumer experiences,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Consumers can buy products, access information, and communicate with people anywhere in the world with just the touch of a button. This increased connectivity raises some big questions and implications for consumers.

“As we become more and more connected and government services move online, how can we ensure that everyone can get access to the internet? How safe is our personal information? What information is being collected about us from connected devices? These are some of the issues we’ll explore at the Conference,” added Ms Corbin.

The Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) today met with members of the National Broadband Network (nbn) executive team, including Chief Executive Officer Bill Morrow, to discuss ways of improving broadband access in rural, regional and remote Australia.

The meeting was instigated by nbn following almost 12 months of extensive activity by the RRRCC to raise awareness of the challenges consumers in rural, regional and remote areas continue to face.

“We appreciate nbn inviting the Coalition to discuss ongoing issues firsthand,” AgForce representative, Georgie Somerset said.

“It is certainly valuable that Bill Morrow and his senior team have taken the time to again meet with us directly and discuss the issues we have.”

Guaranteed access to broadband services for all Australians is a step closer after a Senate Committee last night recommended the Telecommunications Reform Package be passed by Parliament.

The recommendation was welcomed by the Regional, Rural and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC).

“We are pleased the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee has taken this view,” National Farmers’ Federation President, Fiona Simson said.

“In effect, this new obligation will, for the first time, legally ensure all Australians have access to broadband.

ACCAN welcomes Telstra’s announcement that it will no longer offer third party mobile subscriptions to its customers from 3 December, 2017. Our recent survey found that as many as 1.9m consumers across Australia have found unexpected third party charges on their phone bills in the previous six months.

“We congratulate Telstra on stepping up and taking action to stop their customers from getting slugged by unwanted third party subscriptions,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Consumers have had to put up with these unexpected charges far too long.”

While this is a welcome move, ACCAN is calling for stricter regulation on third party billing because so many consumers are getting caught out (see below for additional safeguards we are calling for).

ACCAN welcomes the ACCC’s guidance to retail service providers (RSPs) on broadband speed claims released today. The guidance should help clear up the consumer confusion around broadband speeds. The informative labels that the ACCC has suggested (basic evening speed, standard evening speed, standard plus evening speed and premium evening speed) will help consumers better understand the speeds they can expect from their services, and provide a useful guide on what level of service performance they are buying.

“At the moment consumers are unable to tell what speed they can expect from a service during busy periods,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “The ACCC’s advice to RSPs to focus their marketing on speed performance during busy periods will help consumers to know what speeds their services will actually deliver during peak times.

A new survey, commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), has revealed that 12 per cent of respondents experienced unexpected third party charges on their mobile phone bills in the last six months.

“Applied to the mobile customer base of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, this 12 per cent equates to almost 1.9m people who could have received unexpected charges on their mobile bills. We estimate that collectively, consumers may have been charged as much as $20m unexpectedly in the last six months*,”said ACCAN Director of Policy, Una Lawrence. “ACCAN is calling for better protections to be put in place so that consumers don’t get caught out with unexpected charges on their mobile bills.”

The ACCAN survey found people are buying apps, games, entering competitions, getting news updates and voting on TV shows and charging it to their mobile accounts. While this may suit some consumers, just under 50 per cent of respondents were unaware their phone could be used this way. Over a third who had incurred unexpected charges reported that they weren’t informed, didn’t consent to or confirm the charge, or understand how or how much they would be charged.

The Government’s commitment to providing the National Relay Service (NRS) into the future is welcomed, however, ACCAN is concerned about the lack of provision to increase funding even though new relay options were introduced over the last three years.

“The NRS has been a critical communications channel for Australians who are Deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired for more than two decades and it continues to be an essential service for many consumers,” said ACCAN Disability Policy Advisor, Wayne Hawkins.

“The introduction of video relay, SMS relay, two-way internet relay, the NRS app and captioned telephony has made Australia’s National Relay Service a worlds-best service for people who are Deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired and it should be applauded.

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