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In November 2016 the Productivity Commission released its Data Availability and Use Draft Report.

ACCAN is pleased that the Productivity Commission has initiated a discussion into how consumers can exercise greater control over data held about them, including a proposal to create a Comprehensive Right to Data Access for individuals.

By increasing the availability and use of data across the private and public sectors, and to individual consumers about themselves, there is potential to stimulate innovation and competitiveness in the marketplace. This could lead to increased choice and better decision-making for consumers, as well as increased transparency and accountability in Government.

ACCAN submitted to the Interim Report of the Australian Consumer Law review to provide feedback on proposed options to improve consumer protection laws and guidance material for telecommunications consumers.  

We were pleased to see the Interim Report taking up several of ACCAN’s concerns:

The ACMA recently consulted with ACCAN on changes that aim to improve the identity-checking requirements for activating prepaid mobile services.

Between November 2015 and July 2016 the ACMA conducted a review of the Telecommunications (Service Provider – Identity Checks for Prepaid Mobile Carriage Services) Determination 2013. The working group established as part of the review made 17 recommendations, which the ACMA has agreed to support.

ACCAN is pleased to see that the ACMA is supporting the working group’s recommendations, which will help to enable all consumers to obtain prepaid services without undue burden.

The ACCC is undertaking a inquiry to determine whether the difference in geographic coverage provided by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone is having a negative effect on competition for mobile services, and whether requiring mobile roaming would be in the long-term interests of consumers.  

Mobile roaming is where a mobile network operator uses (or roams onto) the mobile network of another mobile network operator (the host mobile network) so that the first operator can provide mobile services to consumers outside of its own network coverage area.

In November 2016, the Department of Communications and the Arts undertook a review of funding for consumer representation and research and how ACCAN has delivered. This was a valuable opportunity to examine communications consumer representation and research; consider the current model’s effectiveness and the ongoing relevance of s593, as well as future considerations and options.

As part of the response we produced an infographic which compares consumer representation and research before ACCAN was established and an outline of the services we now provide each year. ACCAN’s full submission is also linked below.

In September the ACCC commenced a broad study into the telecommunications market and the likely developments over the next 5 years. It asked a range of questions about the market to understand if there are any potential issues that will negatively affect consumers. This included questions such as what information would be beneficial to consumers in choosing products, whether competition is working in the voice and broadband service market and whether there are issues with emerging technologies and services.

In 2016, the Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code is being reviewed.  Mobile Premium Services (MPS) are information and entertainment services that deliver various forms of content to your mobile phone, and are charged to your phone account. The MPS Code aims to safeguard consumers from an industry which has a history of poor practice.

Market changes in the last year mean that consumers are able to buy more products in new ways, and charge them to their phone bill. As a result, ACCAN considers that the Code should be updated so that it adequately protects consumers.

There are a number of fixed networks delivering superfast broadband services (capable of delivering greater than 25Mbps download speeds). In October the ACCC consulted about the pricing and terms and conditions that should apply to some of these networks, such as Opticomm, OPENetworks, LBN Co, Telstra South Brisbane and TPGs FTTB networks. The price and terms for NBN are set out under different documents, called the Special Access Undertaking.

Competition law is critical so that companies can offer high quality of service at the lowest possible price. There are currently two sets of laws that cover competition in the telecommunications industry – one set is general, and the other telco industry specific. The Department of Communications and the Arts is looking at whether the industry specific rules are needed following the adoption of reforms proposed by the Harper Review in 2014.

ACCAN supports removing any overlap as long as this does not cause any detriment to consumers.

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) came into effect five years ago.  The Productivity Commission is reviewing how well the ACL is being enforced and administered by the ACCC and state and territory regulators. 

We want to make sure that all Australians receive equal protection under the ACL, regardless of where they live. We also want to ensure that consumers have access to the right information so they can make informed choices about which products and services to buy. 

How the nbn offers services to retail service providers and the prices that it charges them is set out in a document called the ‘Special Access Undertaking (SAU)’. It is an important document that was first agreed in 2013 and will affect the price and quality of telecommunication services until 2040.

Earlier this year nbn asked for a number of changes to the document. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has the power to decide if the changes proposed are in the interest of consumers and has asked for feedback on them.

In July the ACCC released a discussion paper on telco industry claims to consumers about broadband speeds.

Broadband speed claims is an issue that ACCAN members and consumers regularly express frustration about. They can be confusing and misleading, because they often do not match the speeds services can actually achieve in real-world conditions. ACCAN welcomes the ACCC investigation into this area and believes that further guidelines for retail service providers (RSPs) are needed to improve advertising practices. Standardised comparable information on actual predicted performance to assist consumers navigate the market. The proposed Broadband Performance Monitoring and Reporting Program, which aims to test service performance, is needed to support and verify the claims made by RSPs.