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Advertised broadband speeds can be confusing. Claims such as ‘up to’ or ‘ultrafast’ do not explain what the typical speed will be for consumers. It also makes it difficult to compare providers and pick a plan that matches need. The ACCC, through new guidelines, is promoting clearer information on speed claims and ensuring that claims are not misleading consumers.

ACCAN’s submission to the Federal Joint Parliamentary Committee on the NBN highlights a number of solutions to the problems facing consumers.

Telecommunication services have always been essential for public health and safety, but today they are a necessity for participation in civic society and transacting with government, for business operations, productivity and growth. ACCAN’s Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18 discusses market gaps and gives recommendations on telecommunications initiatives that will benefit consumers including:

In December 2016 the Department of Communications and Arts consulted on three legislative reforms;
• to clarify the rules around broadband networks,
• to ensure everyone has access to a broadband network through the Statutory Infrastructure Provider, and
• to establish funding of regional broadband services.

ACCAN has recently made a submission to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s ICT Procurement Taskforce consultation. The Taskforce is investigating how the Government’s procurement of information and communications technologies can be improved. ACCAN made two recommendations to the Taskforce to ensure that all government information, services and employment opportunities are accessible to people with disability. 

The Attorney-General’s Department recently invited submissions on whether data retained under the Data Retention Scheme should be made available to parties to civil proceedings (for example family law cases and copyright infringement cases).

ACCAN’s submission includes a number of reasons why this information should not be made available in civil cases, including that:

The Productivity Commission released in December 2016 its draft inquiry report on the obligation (universal service obligation) that ensures all Australians can access telephone services. While the draft report supports our view that the obligation is outdated and that consumers should have access to broadband services, there are a number of elements which ACCAN raised as concerning in our submission.

In November 2016 the Productivity Commission released its Data Availability and Use Draft Report.

ACCAN is pleased that the Productivity Commission has initiated a discussion into how consumers can exercise greater control over data held about them, including a proposal to create a Comprehensive Right to Data Access for individuals.

By increasing the availability and use of data across the private and public sectors, and to individual consumers about themselves, there is potential to stimulate innovation and competitiveness in the marketplace. This could lead to increased choice and better decision-making for consumers, as well as increased transparency and accountability in Government.

ACCAN submitted to the Interim Report of the Australian Consumer Law review to provide feedback on proposed options to improve consumer protection laws and guidance material for telecommunications consumers.  

We were pleased to see the Interim Report taking up several of ACCAN’s concerns:

The ACMA recently consulted with ACCAN on changes that aim to improve the identity-checking requirements for activating prepaid mobile services.

Between November 2015 and July 2016 the ACMA conducted a review of the Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013. The working group established as part of the review made 17 recommendations, which the ACMA has agreed to support.

ACCAN is pleased to see that the ACMA is supporting the working group’s recommendations, which will help to enable all consumers to obtain prepaid services without undue burden.

The ACCC is undertaking a inquiry to determine whether the difference in geographic coverage provided by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone is having a negative effect on competition for mobile services, and whether requiring mobile roaming would be in the long-term interests of consumers.  

Mobile roaming is where a mobile network operator uses (or roams onto) the mobile network of another mobile network operator (the host mobile network) so that the first operator can provide mobile services to consumers outside of its own network coverage area.

In November 2016, the Department of Communications and the Arts undertook a review of funding for consumer representation and research and how ACCAN has delivered. This was a valuable opportunity to examine communications consumer representation and research; consider the current model’s effectiveness and the ongoing relevance of s593, as well as future considerations and options.

As part of the response we produced an infographic which compares consumer representation and research before ACCAN was established and an outline of the services we now provide each year. ACCAN’s full submission is also linked below.