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Migrating to the National Broadband Network (NBN) is a complex process. It requires the coordination of a number of parties including Telstra, nbn, consumers and retail service providers. The Department of Communications and the Arts has revised its migration framework principles, to try to ensure that consumers and businesses experience a smooth transition.

The ACCC requires nbn to report quarterly on the number of services operating on its network. The data provides transparency about the types of service sold by nbn (for example, by technology and speed level) and which telecommunications providers are buying what. The ACCC releases some of the data collected to the public. (to understand why this data is so useful see our blog). The ACCC recently consulted about the usefulness of this reporting and if it should continue.

Communications Alliance, the telecommunications industry association, is proposing that the industry code ACIF C609:2007 Priority Assistance For Life Threatening Medical Conditions be replaced with a guideline. ACCAN opposes replacing this long-standing consumer protection Code with a guideline. ACCAN asserts that consumer and community safety and certainty are better protected by maintaining the Code which can be monitored and enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Our submission makes a number of recommendations to maintain the Code instead of replacing it with a guideline.

ACCAN has submitted to the review of the Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code, conducted by Communications Alliance. MPS deliver paid information and entertainment to your mobile using 19xx text messaging, which is then charged to your mobile phone bill. The MPS Code sets out industry rules and consumer safeguards for mobile service providers (for example, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) and 19xx third party providers (for example, Oxygen8 Australia, Mobile Embrace).

ACCAN’s research, Third Party Charges: Consumer Experiences and Expectations, shows that stronger consumer safeguards for MPS and other third party services are needed. Current arrangements are not adequately protecting consumers from unsolicited third party charges, and poor industry practices.

ACCAN does not believe that the current framework governing the delivery of broadband services is in the interest of consumers. Too often consumers have no transparency or assurance over their service, get passed between retailer and wholesaler and could potentially be left without access to any network. ACCAN strongly supports the Statutory Infrastructure Provider legislation. We encourage the introduction of the legislation as quickly as possible so the powers within the legislation can be used to protect consumers and their services.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) is required by section 133A of the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Services Standards) Act 1999 to undergo an independent review. The review is being conducted by private consultancy Cameron.Ralph.Khoury and is to be completed by 17 August 2017. ACCAN submitted to the review after consulting with its members about their experiences with, and opinions of the TIO.

ACCAN recently submitted to the Communications Alliance on its consultation paper, Industry Managed Numbering Arrangements. Communications Alliance is proposing to take over all responsibilities for the management of telecommunications numbering, which is currently undertaken by the ACMA, Communications Alliance, and Industry Number Management Systems Ltd.

Numbering is important as telephone numbers let consumers know what type of service is being called (i.e. a mobile, national, international, toll or free number) and how much a call is likely to cost. This has important accessibility and affordability implications.

ACCAN has responded to the ACCC’s draft decision not to regulate mobile roaming across the three mobile networks (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone).

ACCAN supports the ACCC’s approach. The majority of our members in regional, rural and remote areas do not consider regulating roaming will stimulate more coverage and improved services, but at the same time they would welcome greater competition and choice of provider. Our submission identifies other ways the ACCC could support more competition.

The ACCC, after consultation and consideration, made a draft decision to reject the nbn’s proposed variation to the Special Access Undertaking. This was due to consideration that a number of the proposed changes are not in the interest of consumers. Additionally, the ACCC asked further questions in relation to nbn charges over the Multi Technology Mix.

The Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee has conducted an inquiry into the outcomes of the National Disability Strategy.

ACCAN was pleased to be able to make a submission to the inquiry highlighting the key areas in which consumers with disability are struggling to get and stay connected to communications services:

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.