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ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights and Technology consultation.

The issues paper asked which human rights can be affected by technology, and what issues technology can raise for different groups of people. The issues paper included some questions that specifically related to people with disability and the accessibility of technology, including what challenges and opportunities people with disability experience when accessing technology and how the development and use of more accessible technology can be encouraged and promoted in Australia.

ACCAN focused on the human rights of people with disability in our submission. We made the following key points:

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Facilities Access Code consultation.

The discussion paper asked whether improvements could be made to the code which provides a process for carriers to access each other’s infrastructure, co-locate equipment and co-build facilities in order to reduce the cost of providing services and protecting community amenity through duplication of infrastructure. The code also provides voluntary consultation and negotiation processes for carriers as well as a framework for dispute resolution in the event that they cannot agree on access arrangements.

Although the code has been largely successful in promoting co-location and reducing duplication, there are indications that in regional areas it has been less effective. There are also some indications that carriers may have incentives to preclude access or co-location where there are commercial advantages to doing so.

ACCAN made the following key points:

ACCAN has made a submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Mobile Terminating Access Service (MTAS) declaration inquiry.

The review asked whether access to mobile networks should be 'declared' for the purpose of connecting calls.

'Declaring' a service allows a mobile call to be connected between two different providers at a fixed per-minute rate and on certain terms. For example, if your phone provider is Telstra it allows you to call a friend on Optus.

In this example MTAS makes sure that Telstra can connect a call on the Optus network at a rate which represents the cost of the call. Without declaration Optus would be free to charge well above cost to access its network and this high cost would probably be passed on to consumers.

ACCAN made the following key points:

The ACMA periodically reviews the Telecommunications (International Mobile Roaming) Industry Standard 2013 (IMR Standard) to ensure it continues to be effective in the changing telecommunications environment. ACCAN submitted to the current review and argued that whilst the IMR Standard continues to offer strong consumer protections, there are some areas for improvement:

  • Consumers must be notified when they switch between different roaming services such as daily roaming packs and traditional pay-as-you-go roaming

  • Consumers must be notified more regularly about how much they have spent on roaming, and at a minimum at $50 increments

  • Consumers must be notified prior to incurring extra charges (e.g. for data beyond what is included in their service). This notification should be provided with adequate time for consumers to turn off their roaming service if they wish to do so

  • Information about usage and charges relating to roaming must be current, and at a minimum no older than 2 hours, to ensure consumers are able to properly manage and control their usage and spending.

The Federal Government is developing reforms to give consumers greater access and control over their data held by companies they do business with, like banks, energy companies and telcos. The Consumer Data Right will allow customers to transfer their data to different providers to see if those providers offer products that would be more suitable, at a better price.

For consumers, greater use and control of their data could provide significant benefits through helping them to find services they need at reduced prices.

In this consultation, The Treasury is asking for comments on the draft legislation that will underpin the consumer data right, before the legislation is introduced into Federal Parliament.

The review of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code has been underway since August 2017. The Code sets out rules for how retail service providers must deal with their customers. It covers sales, customer service, contracts, billing, credit and debt management, financial hardship, and transfers between providers.

The Code is reviewed periodically to ensure it reflects current market offers, trends and consumer needs. ACCAN is a part of the Working Committee (comprised of industry, consumer, government and regulatory representatives) for the review and has consulted widely with its members throughout this process.

A draft TCP Code was recently released for public comment. ACCAN’s submission to this consultation focused on the need to improve consumer protection by strengthening the requirements on providers in a range of key areas. In particular ACCAN would like to see better practices for:

The Regional Telecommunications Review is conducted every three years and is an important forum for examining telecommunications issues and equity of services in regional, rural and remote Australia.

Since the last review in 2015 the rollout of the National Broadband Network in regional areas has almost been completed, and communities and consumers are starting to see the benefits of greater investment in regional and remote telecommunications services. However, for many people in regional and remote Australia the digital divide remains entrenched. There is a need for further investment in infrastructure, targeted affordability measures and digital literacy support programs to close this divide.

In our submission ACCAN has outlined emerging or persistent issues and recommended actions on how these might be addressed. These include:

ACCAN recently submitted to the Department of Communications and the Arts consultation on Copyright Modernisation. The modernisation of copyright has the potential to bring significant benefits to consumers and ACCAN supports reforms to ensure that consumers are appropriate protected and can have confidence when interacting with the copyrighted material.

In our submission, we reiterated our support for reforms including:

ACCAN recently submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) consultation on the Competition Notice Guidelines. ACCAN’s submission forms part of ACCAN’s ongoing work to support competition in the telecommunications industry in order to promote better outcomes for consumers and small businesses. 

The Competition and Consumer Act (Cth) provides for an industry-specific regulatory framework for telecommunications. This gives the ACCC power to issue a competition notice, which is a formal ‘stop’ notice to a provider who is suspected of acting anti-competitively. If a provider does not comply with a notice they face substantial fines - $10m, plus $1m per day for non-compliance.

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission (NSWLRC) has been asked to review and report on access to digital assets upon death or incapacitation. Digital assets can include images, videos, emails, online banking accounts, cryptocurrency, domain names, blogs and online gaming accounts.

The creation of digital accounts, use of digital media and services is common practice amongst Australian consumers. Despite the many ways Australian consumers engage with digital media and online services, there are inadequate legal protections for them and their digital assets after death. This raises questions about the digital legacy deceased Australians leave behind and what should be done to manage it.

The ACMA is developing new rules to protect consumers migrating to the NBN, as announced late last year. The ACMA has now consulted on all five measures which focus on improving the way the telco industry handles consumer complaints, the provision of information to consumers, and ensuring that consumers have access to a working service.

ACCAN has submitted on the: Complaints Handling Standard, Record Keeping Rules, Consumer Information Standard, Line Testing Determination, and Service Continuity Standard.

ACCAN recently submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) consultation on the declaration of the Domestic Transmission Capacity Service (DTCS).Declaring the DTCS means that wholesale transmission prices on certain routes are regulated by the ACCC. Low DTCS prices means more service providers and more competition.