Hot Issues

Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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shutterstock 159902675What is the Consumer Data Right (CDR)?

The CDR refers to the right of consumers to safely access certain data about themselves that is held by businesses. This data will be provided to consumers in a practical form and in a timely manner.

The CDR will also allow consumers to transfer their data to trusted third parties of their choice, and will require businesses to inform consumers about the disclosure of data to third parties.

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Everyday savingsIn mid-August NBN Co announced changes to wholesale prices charged to retail service providers (RSPs) e.g. Telstra, Optus, and others for fixed wireless services. We’ve taken a close look at what this is likely to mean for consumers, and this is where we’ve landed.

ACCAN has concerns that the proposed changes to pricing for fixed wireless will result in a material disadvantage to those consumers on low incomes that live in regional areas where nbn services are provided by fixed wireless towers. In particular, the movement to uniform prices will result in consumers currently accessing more affordable, albeit slower NBN fixed wireless offerings, being priced out of the market.

These changes follow similar changes in the way that fixed line services have been priced, and bring the wholesale pricing of fixed wireless services and fixed line services into alignment. ACCAN’s concerns regarding the changes to wholesale fixed line services can be seen here.

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Conference Blog post 01On the 12th and 13th September 2018, ACCAN held our annual conference - ACCANect. Revolving around the theme of ‘Confidence in the Connected World’, attendees were treated to two days full of informative talks and discussion panels from the telco industry, government bodies and academics.

Mark Pesce, inventor, author, educator and broadcaster kicked off ACCANect 2018 by reflecting on the progress that Australia has made in the telecommunications industry and predicting what is to come. From the impending arrival of 8K television to the incorporation of hologram technology into our everyday lives, Mark emphasised the need for industries, governments and consumers to think about a future that is going to be more heavily reliant on communications infrastructure than we can imagine.

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Australia is becoming a more connected country than ever before. With approximately 14.2 million1 Australians connected to the Internet, it is quickly becoming the vehicle for much of our communication, information and commerce. However, for many regional, rural and remote Australians, there are considerable barriers to engagement with the digital world.

ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, spoke at the Country Women’s Association of Australia’s National Conference where she presented on the main barriers that prevent rural Australians from maximising the economic and social benefits that today’s telecommunication services can provide.

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ACCAN is seeking nominations for Directors to fill three (3) vacancies on its Board.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution, the 2018-2019 ACCAN Board will consist of nine (9) members . Six (6) positions are continuing Directors from the 2017-2018 Board. Three (3) Directors are retiring from the Board but may be eligible for re-election as stated in the ACCAN Constitution.

In accordance with the ACCAN Constitution Board members are elected for a three year term.

In order to ensure an appropriate balance, the Board is particularly seeking candidates with legal and regulatory expertise or experience; and/or experience in financial management and governance in a not for profit organisation; and/or with an understanding of the issues affecting rural and remote consumers and/or from an Indigenous background or with strong linkages to Indigenous communities; and/or with expertise in relation to low income consumers.

Each nominee for the ACCAN Board MUST sign the nomination form and be accompanied by a signature from a proposer and seconder. In order for the nomination to be valid the nominee, proposer and seconder must be individual members or representatives of voting organisational members of ACCAN. Associate members are ineligible to vote in ACCAN elections.

Late applications cannot be accepted under the ACCAN Constitution.

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Can You Hear Me report cover

Customer service in the telecommunications industry can be a frustrating experience for consumers who want and need to quickly and efficiently make contact with their provider.

In 2016/17 the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) received 158,016 complaints. 76,932 (48.7%) of these complaints related to customer service. In the first six months of 2017/18 a further 84,914 complaints were received by the TIO.

To discover the aspects of customer service most in need of improvement, ACCAN surveyed 1,347 customers of 10 telecommunications providers. The screening process for the survey found that in the last 12 months, 51% of respondents had made contact with their provider, not including routine contact to pay a bill or top up an account. This suggests over half of telecommunications consumers have had an issue or query relating to their service.

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Confused consumer talking on phoneOver the past 10 months ACCAN has been representing consumers on an industry working committee reviewing the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code. We have consulted broadly with our members to ensure that the consumer voice is heard and worked closely with Legal Aid NSW, the other consumer representative on the Committee. A draft of the amended Code is now out for public comment.

The Code is important because it sets out rules for how telcos must deal with their customers. It covers sales, customer service, contracts, billing, credit and debt management, financial hardship, and transfers between providers. It is a key component of the consumer protection framework for the telecommunications industry. This is especially the case now, in light of the significant rise in complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), and the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) that is causing significant confusion and frustration for consumers.

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Couple worried over billsNBN Co has recently announced changes to wholesale prices charged to retail service providers (RSPs) from October 2018. These changes mean consumers can expect to pay higher prices to access NBN services.

At the same time consumers can expect to have an improved experience as congestion in the network is addressed through greater dedication of bandwidth per individual customer.

The proposed changes to wholesale pricing will likely result in significant disadvantages for consumers on low incomes. ACCAN has been advocating for more affordable broadband and would like to see low income measures to address fairer NBN pricing.

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Woman using Auslan on a computerMinister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield, in response to an Australian Sign Language video question on the ABC’s Q&A program this week [at 35min 50sec], pledged that Australians who are Deaf, hearing and/or speech impaired will have the service they need when the Government implements the next National Relay Service (NRS) contract.

The issue raised by Deaf Australia CEO Kyle Miers, is that the current cost of providing the NRS is in excess of $32 million per annum and the recently released NRS request for tender has capped the service funding at $22 million per annum for the next three year.

The question of how a 30% reduction in funding can ensure services will continue on a 24/7 basis was asked on behalf of the Coalition of NRS Users Organisations;

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Eye peering through a keyhole in cloud

In March 2018 it was revealed that the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, gained unauthorised access to almost 87 million (primarily United States) Facebook users’ data. Also implicated was Cambridge Analytica’s British counterpart, Strategic Communication Laboratories.

Facebook users’ data was harvested through the two data firms through a personality-quiz app created by Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, named “This Is Your Digital Life”. Facebook confirmed that only 270,000 Facebook users downloaded Kogan’s app, but Facebook has not yet refuted claims that up to 87 million users’ data had been accessed. During this time, when Facebook users downloaded apps connected to their Facebook accounts, they also exposed data from many of their friends to the app developer, hence, the large estimated number of users affected.

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Man looking at social media content on phoneThe NSW Law Reform Commission will examine laws regarding access to a deceased or incapacitated person’s social media account and other digital assets. The NSW Law Reform Commission outlines that digital assets can include images, videos, emails, online banking accounts, cryptocurrency, domain names, blogs and online gaming accounts.

The move comes after concerns over what happens to digital assets after death or incapacitation in an increasingly connected world.

‘In today’s hyper-connected world, an unprecedented amount of work and socialising occurs online, yet few of us consider what happens to our digital assets once we’re gone or are no longer able to make decisions’, Attorney General, Mark Speakman, said.

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Teresa Corbin - ACCAN CEOACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, presented at the CommsDay Summit 2018 in Sydney on 9 April. This year's CommsDay Summit brought together telecoms industry leaders and politicians from across the country to discuss topics including the NBN, 5G, fixed and wireless technologies and the market.

The speakers included Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Telstra CEO, Andy Penn, as well as representatives from NBN, Huawei, Vodafone, ACMA and other telecommunications providers.

Teresa's presentation focused on four of ACCAN's key priorities for consumers in 2018:

• NBN & Consumers

• Consumer Protection

• Rural & Regional Issues

• Latest Affordability Stats

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