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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 Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is pleased to see the downward trend of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) continue with a drop of 10.5 per cent shown in the 2014-15 Annual Report. However, the number of new complaints recorded (124,417) is still a significant number with some key problem areas emerging in the Report that need to be improved.

One of the positive trends seen in the past year is the decrease in mobile coverage complaints which fell by 49.2 per cent. Mobile coverage issues affect many consumers, particularly those in rural and remote areas. The drop in complaints in this area is positive especially as more consumers move toward being mobile-only. Recent ACMA research found that 29 per cent of Australians had only a mobile phone and no fixed line telephone at home.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the ACMA's action to direct six providers to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code. The six telcos listed by the ACMA have failed to lodge compliance documents with Communications Compliance (CommCom) by 1 April, 2015. They also failed to lodge this documentation with CommCom in 2014.

In ACCAN's view the TCP Code compliance regime is a light touch approach. Under the Code each telco that provides services to consumers must lodge two documents with CommCom annually by 1 April. These documents are: a Customer Information Compliance Statement setting out where customers can access information that is required to be made public and a Compliance Attestation that is endorsed by the CEO or a senior manager confirming that it complies with the Code and has a Compliance Plan that meets Australian Standards.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) congratulates nbn and Arianespace on the successful launch of the Sky Muster satellite. Sky Muster is the first of two satellites that nbn is launching as part of its plan to provide broadband services to all premises in Australia. The second satellite is expected to launch mid-2016.

Satellites will provide broadband services to three per cent of premises in Australia, primarily in regional and remote areas including the islands that make up Australia. Consumers in these areas currently have poor to no broadband, with many facing difficult situations created by the lack of adequate services and exorbitant costs.

After a small but respectable drop in mobile bill shock due to usage notifications shown in the ACMA's Spend Management Tools and Alerts Survey 2015, further gains need to be found through the introduction of real time notifications. Currently these warnings can be up to 48 hours out of date by the time consumers receive them. With high excess usage charges, you can rack up a significant debt without even realising it.

Currently Telstra is the only telco to announce real time usage notifications. The ACMA research showed that delays in receiving information are "the major cause for dissatisfaction with the alert system" and this is where consumers can get caught out. ACCAN is calling on all telcos to implement real time usage alerts so consumers know when they are approaching their limit and as soon as they have reached a limit. This would allow them to more easily manage their usage and avoid expensive excess charges.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the appointment of Senator Mitch Fifield to the role of Communications Minister. "As the peak organisation representing consumers and small business on telecommunications, we're looking forward to engaging with Minister Fifield on important issues that affect users," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

"We are pleased that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for Australia to embrace the future and use digital disruption to our advantage. As a nation of early technology adopters, Australian consumers are keener than ever to join in and benefit from innovations that deliver better, more affordable and accessible communications choices."

For example, the establishment of the Digital Transformation Office is a great opportunity to be a world leader and ensure Government services are even more accessible as they move online. We are looking forward to helping ensure this initiative works to overcome any barriers for those unable to use or access the internet.

Apps for All - Horizontal pink

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), along with Telstra, has today announced the winners of the second Apps For All Challenge at the 2015 ACCAN National Conference in Sydney. Launched last year, the Apps For All Challenge is Australia's only competition that awards the most accessible smartphone and tablet apps.

The Challenge awards apps in four categories. Winners were given a cash prize from Telstra and will receive promotion through Telstra's social media channels.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has today kicked off its 2015 National Conference, Dollars and Bytes – Communications affordability now and tomorrow. The Conference, held in Sydney from 1-2 September, will explore the wide-ranging issue of affordability. Affordability of telecommunications services, along with accessibility and availability, are key focus areas for ACCAN.

Affordability is becoming increasingly important as access to telecommunications services is essential for full economic, social and cultural participation. The main method of communicating with many Government agencies is now through online channels. With the implementation of the Federal Government's Digital First Strategy, this is set to become even more widespread. The strategy will require all Government services and public interactions to be available online by 2017. The formation of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) will help the Government implement this strategy. The inaugural DTO CEO, Paul Shetler, will deliver a presentation at the Conference.

Last week the Indigenous Remote Communications Association (IRCA) and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) hosted an Indigenous Focus Day in Darwin, Northern Territory. The event took place alongside the Broadband for the Bush Forum IV. It attracted 75 participants and focused on identifying the obstacles to digital inclusion and the opportunities that arise from being connected. Participants were representatives from the Indigenous community, as well as delegates from community organisations from across Australia.

The Focus Day consisted of an opening address from Joe Morrison, CEO of Northern Land Council, some shorter presentations and facilitated breakout sessions. Key themes explored were affordability, accessibility, awareness and appropriateness of telecommunications services. The breakout sessions featured speakers covering topics such as costs of phone plans, satellite internet services, broadband for schools and how technology is improving the lives of remote Indigenous communities.

A survey commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) found that real complaint levels are still high despite decreasing escalated complaints reported by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). The survey found that 46 per cent of telco consumers reported having a problem with their phone or internet provider in the last year. This represents more than 8.5 million Australians. The survey was completed by Galaxy Research with 1100 respondents, representative of the Australian population. The 2015 survey repeated the questions of a survey ACCAN commissioned in 2010.

According to the survey, around one third of respondents (38 per cent) who had a problem with their phone or internet service, complained to their provider and were dissatisfied with the response from the telco. However, only nine per cent of these consumers escalated their complaint to the TIO. This suggests that phone and internet providers have not improved the proportion of complaints that are resolved. ACCAN is calling on the telcos to publish their complaint data so the problem areas can be identified.

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