Research Publications

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In 2016 ACCAN commissioned a follow-up to our 2014 Disability Mystery Shopping survey. Disappointingly, the results indicate that little has changed for consumers with disability in the intervening years. Telco sales staff have very little knowledge of products or services suitable for consumers with disability.

Despite industry initiatives to improve the availability of appropriate information after the 2014 survey consumers with disability continue to struggle to find relevant and useful information about mainstream telecommunications products.

A phone showing an unexpeected bill on screen chases another phone show a bag of money.Results from a survey commissioned by ACCAN show that 12 per cent of respondents had experienced unexpected third party charges on their mobile phone bills in the last six months. Consumers can opt out of these services by texting ‘STOP’ to SMS notifications they receive from third party providers. However, ACCAN’s survey found that over three quarters (77 per cent) of people who replied ‘STOP’ still had the charge added to their bill. Over a third (36 per cent) of unexpected charges were for $10 or more.

Woman using tabletACCAN and Infoxchange have come together to produce a report focusing on the more than 427,000 dwellings (about 5 per cent of housing stock) in Australia which fall into the category of social housing – housing provided by the government and community sectors to accommodate people in the lowest income brackets. Residents of social housing are more likely to fall on the wrong side of the digital divide, and face a range of barriers in getting connected. These barriers can be practical, such as getting permissions to install connections in old apartment blocks, budgetary, where the cost to sign up may be prohibitive, or may be related to digital literacy.

In May 2015, ACCAN commissioned Galaxy Research to complete a survey of consumers regarding telco and ISP complaints. The survey found that 46 per cent of telco consumers reported having a problem with their phone or internet provider in the last year, representing more than 8.5 million Australians.

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 suggesting that phone and internet providers have not improved the proportion of complaints that are resolved.

Graphic showing intertwined arrows on a table top with people seated around it

ACCAN has worked with Dr Paul Harrison (Deakin University) to examine the extent to which consumers understand the information provided to them by telecommunications providers. This research will guide ACCAN’s constructive contribution to future reviews of telecommunications industry customer information obligations, at a time when significant structural changes in the telecommunications market mean that consumers will be offered greater choice of retail providers and services.

Report cover image of locked mobile phone displaying $10 noteACCAN commissioned the South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS) to conduct a research project on the affordability of telecommunications for low-income consumers. The research project was split into two phases: the first phase assessed the adequacy of the Centrelink Telephone Allowance (CTA) and the second phase assessed the extent to which poverty affects the purchasing options of low income consumers. The research found there are many additional costs such as those due to making smaller purchases, reconnection costs and overdue payments. These additional costs are known as the poverty premium.

As our communications market continues to develop and the essential nature of network connectivity increases, issues of affordability for many Australians are creating barriers to our communications networks. Overcoming these barriers is increasingly important as government services and information become ‘digital by default’. Ensuring that all Australians are able to afford to connect to communications networks and services suitable to their specific needs will increase economic, social and community participation.

Telecommunications access and affordability among people experiencing financial hardship

Anglicare Victoria looked at over 300 of its low-income clients to investigate how they accessed telecommunications and whether they considered these services affordable.

The overwhelming conclusion was that telecommunications are not universally accessible. This is because 49% of those in the survey did not have home internet, and 56% didn't have mobile internet – such as a smartphone or a dongle. Two-thirds of mobile phone users had difficulty paying their phone bills and a similar number of people ran out of credit on their pre-paid mobile service sooner than they expected.

The full report is available on the ACCAN website.

This research report examined the implications of digital technology, particularly mobile apps, for the management of cultural knowledge. A group of young Aboriginal Australians participated in this project which mapped how they used apps to explore cultural knowledge.

The report is available through the ACCAN Grants Scheme webpage.

University of Sydney researcher, Dr Justine Humphry, surveyed and interviewed a number of Australians experiencing homelessness as well as employees of homelessness service providers. This resulted in a comprehensive report into the internet and mobile phone usage habits and experiences of this group of Australians.

The full report, including further information, can be found on the ACCAN Grants Scheme webpage.

Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) compiled a report outlining how the telecommunications industry's financial hardship policies and practices compare with those of the banking, energy and water industries. Through FCA's first-hand experiences of working with clients experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship, as well as through discussions with consumer advocates, staff from industry hardship teams, government representatives and staff from external dispute resolution (EDR) schemes, a set of best practice recommendations was compiled.

The final report, with the recommendations, can be found on the ACCAN Grants Scheme webpage.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Melbourne investigated the fate of online accounts, financial assets and personal profiles when a user passes away. The team investigated licencing policies, terms of use agreements and copyright law, and interviewed a range of people, including funeral directors, religious workers, internet content and service providers, as well as estate planning lawyers. This work has been updated in 2017 and is now in a second edition.

The report, as well as further information, can be accessed via the ACCAN Grants Scheme webpage.