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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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Today ACCAN is celebrating World Consumer Rights Day. The theme this year is ‘Making digital marketplaces fairer’ and Consumers International is calling for access to fair and secure internet for all, action against scams and fraud, and better consumer protection online. As a member of Consumers International, ACCAN supports this initiative.

“Consumers need to be wary of scams and online fraud which can come in different shapes and sizes,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin said. “We urge consumers to sign up to Australian Government scam alerts to stay on top of these issues and report scams when they encounter them.”

Consumers can stay informed about scams by following Scamwatch and Stay Smart Online. They can learn about cybercrime from the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN). Scams can be reported on the Scamwatch website and cybercrime can be reported on the ACORN website. ACCAN also has a tip sheet to help consumers avoid phone and internet scams.

ACCAN welcomes the ACMA’s announcement today of a consultation on proposed new rules that cover telco complaints handling processes and monitoring. This announcement is especially timely given that 15 March is World Consumer Rights Day – a day to raise awareness about consumer rights and needs. Today’s announcement follows the launch of the ACMA’s analysis of the consumer experience moving to the NBN late last year and an announcement of new telco rules from the Minister of Communications and the Arts.

“The experience of migrating to the NBN has shone a light on the inadequacies of the current regulatory framework to support the delivery of essential telecommunications services,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin said. “Once in place these new rules will ensure that the regulator has better tools to ensure practices of telco providers improve.

“We congratulated the Minister last year for using his powers, and taking these steps to protect consumers. This consultation on complaints handling and monitoring is the first step in implementing these new rules which we hope will greatly benefit consumers.

New rules that will force telcos to significantly improve the consumer experience in moving to the NBN have been welcomed as an early Christmas present for consumers. ACCAN has been calling for some time for these issues to be addressed and we are very pleased with the Minister for Communications’ and the ACMA’s announcements. This is a huge win for consumers.

“The ACMA’s analysis of issues relating to NBN migration confirms what we already know, and highlights some very concerning complaint trends,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “The findings reflect the consumer experiences ACCAN has been hearing about as customers switch over to the NBN.”

The ACMA’s report shows that there needs to be better protection to ensure that consumers have access to a working service, that they are given accurate and consistent information and that there is an improvement in complaints handling to ensure quicker resolution of faults and connection problems. Furthermore, the implementation of these new standards will ensure that if the nbn switchover does not work the previous service will be reconnected so no-one is left without these essential services. These are issues which ACCAN has been raising with the industry, regulators and government. These issues are summarised in our Migration Statement.

ACCAN has welcomed the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission report into the existing Universal Service Obligation (USO).

We are pleased that the Government’s response acknowledges that existing arrangements are out of date and in need of reform. We welcome the Government’s commitment to provide universal access to voice and broadband services through a new Universal Service Guarantee (USG) once the NBN rollout is complete.

“All consumers need access to reliable and affordable voice and internet services,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Guarantees underpinning access to vital voice and internet services are fundamentally important for areas where the market is not delivering adequately.”

“We look forward to working with the government on this in 2018 and beyond.”

ACCAN will work to ensure the new USG addresses the need for assurances that any new service delivery arrangements will take account of:

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.