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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) 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.

phone with "stop do not disturb" signThe Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) would like to congratulate the Federal Government on its move to make registrations on the Do Not Call Register indefinite which passed through both Houses of Parliament yesterday. This is great for consumers who will no longer have to re-register their phone numbers on the Do Not Call Register.

"With more than 10 million registered numbers on the Do Not Call Register, indefinite registration is a win for consumers," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. "The high number of registrations reflects the preference of Australians not to be contacted by telemarketers."

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is concerned that the proposed anti-piracy Industry Code has some serious flaws in its consumer safeguards. ACCAN has outlined its concerns in a submission to Communications Alliance.

The scheme includes a $25 fee to challenge a false claim made by a copyright holder. In Australia, these types of dispute resolution schemes have traditionally been fee free (for example the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman). While there is a provision for fee waivers ACCAN believes the process for applying will be overly bureaucratic and insufficient to improve affordability issues.

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