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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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The Rural Regional and Remote Communications Coalition (RRRCC) is disappointed the Federal Government failed to commit to funding subsequent rounds of the Mobile Black Spot Program in this week’s Budget.

Improved mobile coverage is essential for Australia’s agriculture sector to become a $100 billion industry by 2030 and is critical for the health and economic well-being of regional communities.

“Mobile coverage is a major problem for a lot of our members.

"The Government’s failure to commit additional funding to the Mobile Black Spot Program is a let-down for regional communities,” Derek Schoen, NSW Farmers President said.

The RRRCC recognises that some mobile black spot towers, funded under previous rounds of the Program, are yet to be built, and urges the Government and industry partners to expedite the roll-out of this vital infrastructure.

"We are huge supporters of the Program. It is delivering for regional communities and businesses, and will continue to do so with current funding," Australian Communications Consumer Action Network CEO Teresa Corbin said.

ACCAN is alarmed that complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have increased by 28.7 percent in the six months to December 2017, compared to the same time the previous year. The peak Australian telecommunications consumer body says the TIO’s latest statistics reinforce the need for urgent industry action to put customers first.

“Continuing high numbers of complaints shine a spotlight on weak consumer protections that have existed in telecommunications for some time. This is upheld by the fact that complaint numbers have increased across the board in mobile, fixed line phones and internet services”, said ACCAN CEO, Ms. Teresa Corbin.

“Arguments about whether complaints are the responsibility of the wholesale provider (NBN) or retail service providers do not help consumers resolve these problems quickly. ACCAN strongly supports the new raft of ACMA rules as they are badly needed - particularly the new complaint handling standard and complaints reporting rules.

 

ACCAN CEO - Teresa CorbinACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, discussed a range of telecommunications consumer issues in a speech today at the CommsDay Sydney Summit. In particular, Ms Corbin outlined issues related to the ACCC inquiry into the Wholesale Service Standard and the consumer perspective on the ACMA new rules currently out for consultation.

Ms Corbin said “Currently, NBN’s wholesale service standard levels are set out in commercial agreements negotiated by NBN co with retail service providers (NBN’s Wholesale Broadband Agreement) but do not always lead to good outcomes for customers when it comes to connection times, fault repairs, appointment keeping and network reliability’.

The NBN environment is quite complex with a wholesaler, retail service provider and sometimes an aggregator as well involved in providing services to consumers. The ACCC inquiry on “whether NBN wholesale service standard levels are appropriate is strongly supported by consumer groups who believe that regulation is necessary to improve customer experiences.

Cat sitting around laptop requesting broadband speed volunteersACCAN welcomes the release of the first round of results from the ACCC’s Measuring Broadband Australia speed monitoring program, and its generally positive findings. ‘We’ve long been calling for the independent monitoring of broadband speeds so consumers know what they’re likely to be getting when they buy a service. We’re strongly supportive of the ACCC’s work in this area’ ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said today.

‘Complaints about broadband speeds are at a record high. There is an obvious need for clear and accurate consumer information on what to expect from broadband services’ said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin. ‘The ACCC’s results make broadband speeds more transparent. This is important, because it helps consumers understand how services are actually performing, and gives them the tools they need to choose services best suited to their needs’.

The latest report shows that NBN fixed broadband plans from iiNet, Optus, TPG, and Telstra are typically delivering download speeds of around 80 to just over 90 per cent of the advertised maximum plan speed at the busiest time of the day (7-11pm), and performing consistently throughout the day. They are also achieving positive uploads speeds.

Young woman looking concerned about her mobil ebill ACCAN welcomes the ACCC’s announcement today that it has commenced proceedings against Telstra for misleading its customers about third party billing services.

ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin said that consumers have been extremely frustrated by these unexpected charges on their telco bills and by the difficulties they experience in resolving them. An ACCAN survey last year found 12% of mobile customers had experienced unexpected third party charges on their mobile phone bills in the preceding 6 months.

‘We’ve been calling for stronger consumer protections in this area for some time, including that all third party charging become opt-in, instead of the current opt-out arrangement’, said Ms Corbin. ‘Many people don’t realise that their mobile phone account can effectively be used like a credit card to purchase third party content, like games credits’.

The ACCC has found that Telstra has earned about $61.7m from commissions on third party premium direct billing.

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:

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