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ACCAN has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). The Assistance and Access Bill seeks to amend current legislation to facilitate access by law enforcement agencies to the content of stored communications, such as texts, emails and call data.

ACCAN has expressed serious concerns about the Bill, alongside many other Australian and global stakeholders, including those from the telecommunications industry, technology sector, human rights and consumer organisations. In its current form the Bill will provide access to consumers’ data without their knowledge or adequate judicial oversight. The Bill will act to weaken encryption systems by forcing technology companies, device manufacturers, and other relevant parties, to build into their software and systems an entry-point (or backdoor) to encrypted data.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access to and control over their data held by companies they do business with, such as banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.

In this consultation the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) asked for comments on the principles that will underpin the drafting of rules for the consumer data right, prior to the draft rules being released. The rules will provide detail about how the consumer data right is to be implemented, privacy protections for consumers and the obligations of businesses. ACCAN will comment further on the consumer data rights when the draft rules are released later this year.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access to and control over their data held by companies they do business with, such as banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.
In this consultation The Treasury is asking for further comments on the draft legislation that will underpin the consumer data right, before the legislation is introduced into Federal Parliament. ACCAN’s initial comments on the draft legislation are available here.

ACCAN lodged a submission with the ACCC on its fixed line services declaration inquiry. The inquiry relates to the services that Telstra sells on its copper network to other providers of phone and internet services.

The ACCC is proposing to maintain the regulation of the services Telstra provides for further 5 year period. ACCAN agrees with the ACCC’s position.

Once the ACCC makes its final decision, it will then consider the prices Telstra charges other providers to use its network.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) on its investigation of TPG Telecom Limited’s (TPG) proposed merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia Pty Limited (VHA).

ACCAN is supportive of the proposed merger as it is likely to lead to more sustainable competition with a positive effect for consumers in the Australian telecommunications market. 

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights and Technology consultation.

The issues paper asked which human rights can be affected by technology, and what issues technology can raise for different groups of people. The issues paper included some questions that specifically related to people with disability and the accessibility of technology, including what challenges and opportunities people with disability experience when accessing technology and how the development and use of more accessible technology can be encouraged and promoted in Australia.

ACCAN focused on the human rights of people with disability in our submission. We made the following key points:

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Facilities Access Code consultation.

The discussion paper asked whether improvements could be made to the code which provides a process for carriers to access each other’s infrastructure, co-locate equipment and co-build facilities in order to reduce the cost of providing services and protecting community amenity through duplication of infrastructure. The code also provides voluntary consultation and negotiation processes for carriers as well as a framework for dispute resolution in the event that they cannot agree on access arrangements.

Although the code has been largely successful in promoting co-location and reducing duplication, there are indications that in regional areas it has been less effective. There are also some indications that carriers may have incentives to preclude access or co-location where there are commercial advantages to doing so.

ACCAN made the following key points:

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) declaration inquiry.

The review asked whether access to mobile networks should be 'declared' for the purpose of connecting calls.

'Declaring' a service allows a mobile call to be connected between two different providers at a fixed per-minute rate and on certain terms. For example, if your phone provider is Telstra it allows you to call a friend on Optus.

In this example MTAS makes sure that Telstra can connect a call on the Optus network at a rate which represents the cost of the call. Without declaration Optus would be free to charge well above cost to access its network and this high cost would probably be passed on to consumers.

ACCAN made the following key points:

The ACMA periodically reviews the Telecommunications (International Mobile Roaming) Industry Standard 2013 (IMR Standard) to ensure it continues to be effective in the changing telecommunications environment. ACCAN submitted to the current review and argued that whilst the IMR Standard continues to offer strong consumer protections, there are some areas for improvement:

  • Consumers must be notified when they switch between different roaming services such as daily roaming packs and traditional pay-as-you-go roaming

  • Consumers must be notified more regularly about how much they have spent on roaming, and at a minimum at $50 increments

  • Consumers must be notified prior to incurring extra charges (e.g. for data beyond what is included in their service). This notification should be provided with adequate time for consumers to turn off their roaming service if they wish to do so

  • Information about usage and charges relating to roaming must be current, and at a minimum no older than 2 hours, to ensure consumers are able to properly manage and control their usage and spending.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access and control over their data held by companies they do business with, like banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.

In this consultation, The Treasury is asking for comments on the draft legislation that will underpin the consumer data right, before the legislation is introduced into Federal Parliament.

The Federal Government is reviewing consumer protections in telecommunications. The aim is to ascertain whether existing arrangements will be fit for purpose in an environment where NBN is the underlying infrastructure provider, and consumer use of services has changed considerably since the existing framework was developed. The review is divided into three parts – Redress and Complaints Handling; Reliability; and Choice and Fairness. The Department of Communications and the Arts will conduct and complete the review in 2018.

Part A: Redress and Complaints Handling

The first consultation examined existing regulatory and institutional arrangements to support internal and external dispute resolutions, identified a number of problems with how these apply in practice, and put forward proposals for change.

The review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code has been underway since August 2017. The Code sets out rules for how retail service providers must deal with their customers. It covers sales, customer service, contracts, billing, credit and debt management, financial hardship, and transfers between providers.

The Code is reviewed periodically to ensure it reflects current market offers, trends and consumer needs. ACCAN is a part of the Working Committee (comprised of industry, consumer, government and regulatory representatives) for the review and has consulted widely with its members throughout this process.

A draft TCP Code was recently released for public comment. ACCAN’s submission to this consultation focused on the need to improve consumer protection by strengthening the requirements on providers in a range of key areas. In particular ACCAN would like to see better practices for: