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New research has found consumers often feel so confused and overloaded with information when it comes to buying telco products they have to resort to a range of coping strategies to navigate the highly complex market.

Dr Paul Harrison will present the full findings and recommendations stemming from the report, Seeking Straight Answers: Consumer Decision-Making in Telecommunications, in his keynote address at the 2011 ACCAN National Conference being held in Sydney today and tomorrow.

In the joint study, conducted by Deakin University and ACCAN, some consumers reported using avoidance strategies, such as putting off making a purchase or relying solely on the recommendation of the salesperson or friends to avoid trying to compare plans.

The research was conducted via video and written diaries from 22 participants who were looking to purchase a new telecommunications product. A further 517 people were presented with advertising and sales scenarios to examine their response to bundling, unit pricing and selling practices.

Other highlights on Day One at the conference include speeches by the Minister for Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy, NBN Co Chief Mike Quigley, Opposition Communications Spokesman Malcolm Turnbull MP and Greens Communications Spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam.

ACCAN Chief Executive Teresa Corbin said the ACCAN Conference, being attended by about 200 delegates from consumer groups, industry, government and regulatory authorities, will generate discussion around the big issues relating to broadband: affordability, availability and accessibility.

“We’re expecting a robust and open debate about Australia’s high-speed broadband future by examining some of the key issues relating to affordability for end users.

“So much of the discussion around broadband to date has been about which type of technology to use and how much it will cost, that it’s only really in the past few months that we have begun talking about what price customers will pay.

Day 2 will commence with a Q&A-style panel hosted by ABC journalist Lexi Metherell and featuring senior executives from Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Internode. The panel will discuss customer service, in light of the imminent release of the final recommendations from the Australian Communications & Media Authority’s Reconnecting the Customer inquiry.

“We’re expecting this to be one of the highlights of the conference because it will provide the opportunity for industry and consumer groups to talk about customer service, which as we all know has been troublesome for consumers and industry alike in recent years,” said Ms Corbin.

“Industry representatives are going to tell us how they intend to fix those problems and what they are already doing to curb issues like bill shock, customer service and complaint handling.

“The research released by Deakin today further demonstrates the need for stronger consumer protections in the telecommunications area to overcome the complexity of what’s on offer, through clearer pricing, simpler contracts and better training of salespeople.

“There’s less need to call your telco about a billing problem if you’ve been sold a product or plan that suits your needs and you fully understand the contract from the outset."

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The 2011 ACCAN National Conference is being held at the Aerial UTS Function Centre, 235 Jones St, Ultimo at the corner of Jones and Thomas Streets, Level 7, Building 10.

Media contacts: Elise Davidson (ACCAN) M: 0409 966 931
Dr Paul Harrison (Deakin Uni) M: 0408 400 026

Click here for full conference program.