Grants Program Banner: Woman researching at a University

Exploring the handling of complaints against digital platforms, examining the performance of telco customer service chatbots, and assessing the surveillance risks of Family Plans for victims of domestic and family violence will be the focus of some of the important projects receiving funding through the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)’s 2021 Grants program.

The ACCAN Grants Program 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.

ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said that the research and outcomes achieved by Grants projects play an important role in identifying emerging trends and potential harms amongst communications consumers.

“The work produced by ACCAN Grants recipients helps to shine a light on a range of consumer-focused communications issues,” said Ms Corbin.

“We are eager to see the outcomes from our latest grantees’ work over the year ahead.”

The successful projects are listed below. For more information on the projects, visit the current Grants page.

2021 ACCAN Grants

Charles Sturt University


An assessment of the surveillance risks Family Plans present for users vulnerable to domestic and family violence 

“Family Plan" telecommunications data sharing contracts are commonly promoted as an economic option for multiple users. These plans have multiple devices (with multiple users) contracted to one customer. Family plans can present surveillance risks, especially to those at risk of domestic violence. This project will collate and analyse the available information about the usage data that the customer can access about all users/devices on their plan, and report on the findings. Ultimately this will assist in risk reduction as the findings will provide information to consumers about their phone usage and behaviour that is accessible to their family members.

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)


Enhancing digital adaptability of Australian small retail businesses

The ability to adopt advanced digital services such as e-commerce solutions and cybersecurity services is vital for small businesses and for the economy. Recent surveys indicate that many small businesses are struggling to adapt to sudden changes due to Covid-19. This project aims to investigate how small retail businesses can enhance their growth and efficiency through the better use of advanced digital services from telecommunications providers. 

University of Technology Sydney


Options for a complaint-handling framework for digital platforms

The project will map out policy options for developing a complaint-handling framework for digital platforms, addressing a critical need for the satisfactory resolution of complaints from consumers. The features of effective and accountable internal dispute resolution schemes and the options for an external complaint-handling scheme will be assessed.

University of Melbourne


Understanding digital inequality

This project is an extension of research funded by the Melbourne Social Equity Institute (MSEI), that is undertaking a survey and focus groups with the residents (representing 39 language groups) of Carlton Public Housing Estate in central Melbourne to analyse their strategies for coping with limited connectivity. The ACCAN grant will be used to conduct one-on-one interviews with 12 residents and provide interpreting services.

University of Melbourne


Questioning the chatbot: scrutinising the performance of Telco customer service chatbots in terms of service, transparency, safety, privacy and security

Telcos are increasingly using chatbots and other forms of automated assistants to respond to their customers.  There may be gains for consumers, but there are also the risks of harms, and this project seeks to investigate and recommend strategies to assist consumers to navigate these risks.


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