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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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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.

The ACCAN event Rethinking the Universal Service Obligation (USO), held in Sydney yesterday, aimed to open up discussion about the USO, and unravel the issues confronting consumers, policy makers and industry in a rapidly changing communications landscape.

The USO is a fundamental consumer protection that ensures a standard telephone service (generally fixed line voice services) and pay phones are accessible to all people in Australia.

"As the technology we use evolves and is used to access more and more services, it's important to examine the current Universal Service Obligation to ensure it is still fit for purpose," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. "Our sessions throughout the day saw some interesting debate and discussion on what services consumers require today and into the future and how to ensure the right protections are in place. These discussions with stakeholders and key industry players will help inform ACCAN's work in this area."

Recent statistics show that almost two thirds of Australians are on Facebook, yet according to the 2014 Yellow Social Media Report, only 36 per cent of small businesses have a social media presence. And, despite investing their time in using social media to promote their business, almost three in 10 have no strategy to drive traffic to their sites.

In response to this gap, online training website, Digital Ready, has released a free guide for small business owners on how to use social media to their advantage. The free guide called 'Social Media for Business – a beginner's guide' was developed with small businesses, not for profit organisations and clubs in mind to help them better understand the ins and outs of social media and how they can use it to grow their business.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has been concerned for some time that a copyright notice scheme under an Industry Code will impact consumer access to the internet through sanctions and increased cost. Any notice scheme introduced must respect consumer protections. ACCAN has been participating in the draft Code development process to ensure these concerns are heard.

Consumers rely on internet access for jobs, education and a range of other activities. Measures which limit access, such as speed throttling or disconnection would directly impact a consumer's ability to engage fully in society. While express sanctions against consumers have been kept out of the draft Code, we remain concerned that the evidence gathered through this Code will enable rights holders to disconnect consumers through court based action.

Today at the Communications Vision 2030 event held in Canberra, ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, delivered a presentation that outlined the consumer experience of communication services. The presentation explored the current situation and what can be done to improve consumer access to telecommunications services.

The Communications Vision 2030 project was launched in November and is a partnership between the Competitive Carriers' Coalition, Hume Regional Development Australia, the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA) and ACCAN. The initiative aims to shape a digital vision and generate a set of goals for Australia to achieve global digital age leadership.

Note: the list of providers still charging for calls to 1800 numbers in this release is now out of date. See this tip sheet for up to date information on which providers still charge for 1800 calls from mobile phones.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is disappointed to learn that a number of Australian telcos have yet to make all 1800 number calls free from mobile phones for consumers (see below for list). It's now well past the 1 January, 2015 delivery date proposed by the telco industry to implement this change, with the blessing of the ACMA. Previously ACCAN noted that consumers would hold the industry to its commitments in regard to 1800 numbers.

"Six weeks past the delivery date the number of telcos that have yet to implement this change is disappointing," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. "It's unfair for some consumers who are still paying for mobile calls to 1800 numbers which are used by essential services like Centrelink, financial counsellors, and drug, alcohol and mental health services. These organisations are keen to let their clients know they can call their 1800 contact numbers for free."

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the peak body for communications consumers in Australia, has opposed costs being worn by consumers should a data retention bill be passed by Parliament.

In a submission on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, ACCAN recognised that in many cases access to communications data by criminal law-enforcement agencies is legitimate and necessary. However, robust and independent oversight mechanisms are crucial to ensure the privacy of Australian citizens is not compromised unduly.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action network (ACCAN), the peak body for communications consumers in Australia, congratulates the Federal Government on its inclusion of 'accessibility' in the current Request For Tender (RFT) of ICT Hardware and other Services.

Acknowledging 'desirability' of products and services to meet international best practice standards of accessibility will help ensure that digital information and services provided by government agencies will be accessible to Australians with disability.

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