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Media Releases

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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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.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has today announced the successful Grants Scheme projects for the 2015 Round. The ACCAN Grants Scheme funds projects which undertake research on telecommunications issues, represent consumers or create educational tools which empower consumers to derive the greatest benefit from telecommunications products and services.

The Grants Scheme is competitive and this year received 66 applications from a range of research, private sector and community organisations.

"This year's applications represented a fascinating blend of emerging technology as well as long-standing consumer challenges," said ACCAN Deputy CEO, Narelle Clark. "We congratulate the successful candidates and look forward to working with them on these tremendous projects."

A new study launched today examines the barriers faced by many Deafblind consumers when accessing customer service call centres. The Assisted Access study by Able Australia, was funded through the ACCAN Grants Scheme and aimed to develop a model for Deafblind consumers to access their telco's customer service with ease and security.

Consumers who are Deafblind have both a significant hearing and vision loss. Current information and privacy practices usually require the customer to interact using their own voice – not a facilitator's – and therefore prevent these consumers from easy phone access to their telcos. Text based alternatives are often also inadequate when using specialised screen set ups and braille based systems.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has today launched the 2015 Apps For All Challenge which aims to find Australia's most accessible apps. After successfully launching last year, it's hoped that this year's competition will draw even more entries and awareness for apps that are accessible to all Australians.

The Apps For All Challenge is Australia's first and only competition that awards accessible mobile apps. The challenge is sponsored by Telstra and will award apps in four categories (see below).

In a submission on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has called on the Government to remove ambiguity around Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and subject the scheme to a cost benefit analysis.

Online piracy is a significant issue in Australia which has been caused by a lack of access, delayed release dates and affordability of content. Giving consumers' choice will solve the worst of the piracy problem, so the introduction of streaming services such as Netflix, Presto and Stan is a positive step. The bill requires the blocking of websites which 'facilitate' copyright infringement. This may pick up a number of VPN services which allow Australians to buy content overseas.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) congratulates Netflix on its introduction of Audio Description for its original programming. In a blog post, the streaming service announced that it will offer Audio Description on select titles, beginning with its new series, Marvel's Daredevil. Audio Description will also be rolled out to previous seasons of its original programs including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Marco Polo.

Netflix's announcement overnight follows the launch of the ABC's Audio Description trial on its iview catch-up service which launched yesterday. Audio Description is additional verbal narration that describes visual elements shown on screen during pauses in dialogue. It can describe elements such as scenes, costumes and actions.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) would like to congratulate the ABC on the launch of its ABC iview Audio Description trial. Audio Description is additional verbal narration that describes visual elements shown on screen during pauses in dialogue. It can describe elements such as scenes, costumes and actions.

Consumers who are blind or have a vision impairment will be able to access approximately 14 hours of Audio Described content each week. The trial starts today and will run for 15 months. The content will also be useful to consumers with a learning disability as it will enhance their understanding of what is happening on screen.

The Audio Described content is available on the ABC iview iOS app and will eventually be rolled out to the Android app and the iview website as well. This is the first time a streaming service has introduced Audio Described content in Australia.

In the light of the Dallas Buyers Club Federal Court decision, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is concerned that the Copyright Code will streamline 'speculative invoicing'. Speculative invoicing is the practice where a rights holder sends a letter of demand for payment of damages to an account holder who has allegedly engaged in illegal downloading.

ACCAN has been working with industry and rights holders to develop the industry Copyright Code which today has been submitted to the ACMA. The Code includes a Notice Scheme that will see consumers sent infringement notices if they are alleged to have downloaded pirated material. In our submission to Communications Alliance, we outlined significant concerns in the Code's consumer safeguards.

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