Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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The CEOs of ACCAN, the South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS), and Financial Counsellors Australia (FCA) have sent a joint letter to the major political parties calling for an urgent review of the Centrelink Telephone Allowance (CTA). See below for a link to download the letter that was sent to the political parties.

The letter is accompanied by a preliminary data briefing report by ACCAN and SACOSS on the adequacy of the CTA, based on a survey of 523 low-income Australians. The survey found that many low-income consumers are struggling to pay their telecommunications costs, and that the CTA is not adequate to alleviate this financial difficulty. As a result, the report recommends that all parties and candidates in the Federal Election:

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Researchers sitting at a table with laptopWe’re pleased to announce the successful Grants for 2016. This year the projects look at a range of communications consumer issues including the ballooning market of mental health apps, the security implications of smart home Internet of Things devices, and ways to assist victims of identity theft.

The ACCAN Grants Scheme 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.

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Person using smartphone and laptopTelecommunication services have and are rapidly evolving. ACCAN believes the enhancements to quality of life and economic opportunities from being connected should be available to all consumers.

In looking at the future of communication services in Australia it is time for a new focus on consumer needs. The focus to date has centred too much on developments in the telecommunications market and infrastructure rollout. A consumer focus reveals a number of policy gaps that must be addressed now. These are discussed in ACCAN’s new policy position, The Connected Consumer.

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Sad woman using laptopIt’s a sad fact of life that one day we will die.

Many of us think of our legacy simply in terms of money in the bank, superannuation, cars, homes and other physical assets, but with more and more of our lives being lived online we have a large digital footprint we could leave behind as well.

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Una Lawrence presenting at Broadband for the BushToday, ACCAN Director of Policy, Una Lawrence, delivered a presentation on ACCAN’s policy outcomes to improve communications services and products for Australian consumers at the Broadband for the Bush Forum.

The speech identified six areas of focus where current policy settings are not delivering for consumers:

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ACCAN has written to the major political parties (the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Nationals and Australian Greens) to raise awareness of the need for politicians and government agencies to ensure that all of their online video content is accurately captioned. See below for a copy of this letter.

YouTube has a function that auto-captions videos uploaded to the site, but these captions are often inaccurate. Videos that are uploaded to Facebook often have no captions.

One in 6 Australians suffer from hearing loss; that’s 1 in 6 consumers who are not able to access online videos due to unreadable captions or a lack of captions. Access to information is especially important during the lead up to the 2016 Election. If videos are not properly captioned then many consumers will miss out on important information.

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TV remote pointing at TVAmending the Broadcasting Services Act to introduce audio description on free-to-air TV is one of ACCAN’s 2016 communications consumer priorities. Introducing audio description on Australian TV would provide greater access for consumers who are blind or vision impaired. Currently there is no audio description on Australian free-to-air TV.

Audio description is additional verbal narration that describes visual elements shown on screen during pauses in dialogue. It can describe elements such as scenes, costumes and actions.

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Female farmer using smartphoneThis week, the Coalition and Labor both announced that if elected they would commit extra funding to the Mobile Black Spot Programme. The announcement that an extra $60 million in funding will be allocated to the Programme is welcomed by ACCAN.

Mobile coverage is a key issue for consumers, particularly those who live in regional, rural, and remote areas. This is clear from the more than 10,600 mobile black spots identified in the Programme so far. Improving mobile coverage is one of ACCAN's ongoing key work priorities.

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Election election graphic showing Australia with seven pointed star and voting box: Your communication prioritiesTo find out more about the communications policies of the major political parties we have posed questions to them on these communications consumer priorities and other important issues. When the answers to our questions are available we will post them on this webpage. More information on communications consumer priorities is available on our Election webpage.

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Small business operators using laptop and smartphoneLast week, Optus announced that it had improved the experience for their small business consumers by offering more specialist team members and having a network of small business consumers.

ACCAN welcomes this announcement. These initiatives are a positive step in the right direction.

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Man talking on phone while using laptopTelecommunications outages happen from time to time. Recently a number of outages occurred with services from iiNet, Virgin Mobile and Telstra. These outages occurred on both mobile and fixed networks.

Earlier this year Telstra offered its mobile customers free data days as compensation. For the NBN/ADSL outage, Telstra has offered a $25 credit to consumers and a $50 credit to businesses who were offline for an extended period of time. This will be applied automatically to customer accounts. Depending on your circumstances, a day of free mobile data or a $25/$50 credit may not be adequate compensation. If you or your business was affected and suffered losses due to an outage, you may be entitled to seek more compensation from your telco.

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People at cafe using smartphones and tabletsYou may have noticed that we’ve launched our brand new website. We’ve been working on the new website for quite some time and we’re very excited to finally have it up and running.

The new website is more user-friendly, mobile-friendly and of course, it is accessible to consumers who use assistive technologies like screen readers.

With our new website, we’re well placed to provide consumers with the latest news, information and consumer resources.

The website is now divided into two main areas: Helpful Consumer Information and ACCAN’s Work.

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