Media Releases

ACCAN's work informs public debate about consumer issues in the communications landscape.  Welcome to our collection of the latest news and current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s review of the Universal Service Obligation (USO), the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has proposed an expanded scope for the USO, broader affordability measures and changes to ensure greater inclusion for people with a disability. The proposed changes would ensure that all consumers have access to essential communications services.

The current USO only guarantees supply of a standard telephone voice service. ACCAN believes this scope must be broadened to also guarantee data services, essential content (education and government services) and include service guarantees for connection, fault repairs and reliability standards.

A group of community organisations is calling the future Federal Government to increase assistance to people and families on low incomes in light of new data highlighting telecommunications exclusion.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) and Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) are calling for a review of the Centrelink Telephone Allowance (CTA), pointing to the inadequacies of current entitlements in supporting low-income consumers to stay connected to phones and the internet. The CTA is a quarterly allowance designed to help consumers on income support payments to stay connected to telecommunications services.

“In our digital age telecommunications services are just as essential as water and energy,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “Accessible, available, and affordable communications have the potential to increase the social, economic, and community participation of all Australians. It’s vitally important that all consumers have access to communication services that are affordable so they can take advantage of government services, education and employment opportunities.”

ACCAN Election webpage logoThe Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has identified five communications consumer priorities for the 2016 Election. These are: communications affordability, future consumer protections, broadband performance monitoring, accessible ICT procurement and accessible programming on TV.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) says that extra funding the free-to-air networks will keep from the 25 per cent cut to broadcast licence fees should be used to fund improved accessibility features such as better captioning and audio description. Funding these services would help to make free-to-air TV more accessible to consumers living with a disability. The 25 per cent reduction in licence fees announced overnight in the Federal Budget follows a 50 per cent decrease to the fees in 2013.

“The cuts to the broadcast licence fees are good news for the free-to-air networks,” said ACCAN Disability Policy Advisor, Wayne Hawkins. “This funding could be used to improve captioning on free-to-air TV for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing and to put in place technology that would allow the networks to introduce audio description for people who are blind or vision impaired.”

Currently free-to-air channels do not caption any additional programming on their multi channels other than repeated programs from their primary channel. Primary channels must caption all programming between 6am and midnight as well as all news and current affairs programs. There are no requirements for audio description to be included on free-to-air television and currently none of the free-to-air networks provide this service.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has launched a guide for consumers who will receive internet services over nbn’s Sky Muster satellite. The guide will be a useful tool for consumers in these areas to help them get connected to broadband services. Sky Muster services were officially launched today.

ACCAN welcomes the launch of Sky Muster services as they will deliver improved broadband services to premises across Australia, primarily in regional and remote areas including the islands that make up Australia. Consumers in these areas have experienced poor to no broadband services, with many facing difficult situations created by the lack of adequate services and exorbitant costs.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the three-year construction plan released by nbn but is concerned that some consumers will still be waiting up to five years for adequate broadband services. Information released about the National Broadband Network (NBN) has been limited in the last few years. This has left most consumers in the dark about when the NBN might reach them. We regularly hear frustration from our members and consumers over the lack of information and transparency of the NBN rollout. This announcement provides more information for a large number of areas and is due to be updated quarterly, meaning consumers will be more informed.

"nbn previously estimated that 20 per cent of premises in Australia were not able to access adequate services. Through this plan, and over the next three years, a large portion of these consumers will be connected to the National Broadband Network," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. "However, ACCAN is very concerned for consumers who have not made the list and are currently unable to get adequate broadband services. Some consumers are experiencing this if there are no ADSL ports available or their premises are too far from exchanges. Addressing areas that are currently poorly served is one of our policy priorities that we announced earlier this week.

In a speech at the CommsDay Melbourne Congress 2015, ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, spoke about the organisation's Policy Priorities for 2015-16. The priorities cover a range of consumer issues and relate to ACCAN's three core focus areas - affordable, available and accessible communications products and services for all Australians. The complete Policy Priorities are available on ACCAN's website.

As an organisation, ACCAN represents all residential consumers and small businesses, including not-for-profit organisations. Each policy priority aims to address a segment of the market that is not working for a group/s within Australia.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) is pleased to see the downward trend of complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) continue with a drop of 10.5 per cent shown in the 2014-15 Annual Report. However, the number of new complaints recorded (124,417) is still a significant number with some key problem areas emerging in the Report that need to be improved.

One of the positive trends seen in the past year is the decrease in mobile coverage complaints which fell by 49.2 per cent. Mobile coverage issues affect many consumers, particularly those in rural and remote areas. The drop in complaints in this area is positive especially as more consumers move toward being mobile-only. Recent ACMA research found that 29 per cent of Australians had only a mobile phone and no fixed line telephone at home.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the ACMA's action to direct six providers to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code. The six telcos listed by the ACMA have failed to lodge compliance documents with Communications Compliance (CommCom) by 1 April, 2015. They also failed to lodge this documentation with CommCom in 2014.

In ACCAN's view the TCP Code compliance regime is a light touch approach. Under the Code each telco that provides services to consumers must lodge two documents with CommCom annually by 1 April. These documents are: a Customer Information Compliance Statement setting out where customers can access information that is required to be made public and a Compliance Attestation that is endorsed by the CEO or a senior manager confirming that it complies with the Code and has a Compliance Plan that meets Australian Standards.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) congratulates nbn and Arianespace on the successful launch of the Sky Muster satellite. Sky Muster is the first of two satellites that nbn is launching as part of its plan to provide broadband services to all premises in Australia. The second satellite is expected to launch mid-2016.

Satellites will provide broadband services to three per cent of premises in Australia, primarily in regional and remote areas including the islands that make up Australia. Consumers in these areas currently have poor to no broadband, with many facing difficult situations created by the lack of adequate services and exorbitant costs.

After a small but respectable drop in mobile bill shock due to usage notifications shown in the ACMA's Spend Management Tools and Alerts Survey 2015, further gains need to be found through the introduction of real time notifications. Currently these warnings can be up to 48 hours out of date by the time consumers receive them. With high excess usage charges, you can rack up a significant debt without even realising it.

Currently Telstra is the only telco to announce real time usage notifications. The ACMA research showed that delays in receiving information are "the major cause for dissatisfaction with the alert system" and this is where consumers can get caught out. ACCAN is calling on all telcos to implement real time usage alerts so consumers know when they are approaching their limit and as soon as they have reached a limit. This would allow them to more easily manage their usage and avoid expensive excess charges.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomes the appointment of Senator Mitch Fifield to the role of Communications Minister. "As the peak organisation representing consumers and small business on telecommunications, we're looking forward to engaging with Minister Fifield on important issues that affect users," said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin.

"We are pleased that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for Australia to embrace the future and use digital disruption to our advantage. As a nation of early technology adopters, Australian consumers are keener than ever to join in and benefit from innovations that deliver better, more affordable and accessible communications choices."

For example, the establishment of the Digital Transformation Office is a great opportunity to be a world leader and ensure Government services are even more accessible as they move online. We are looking forward to helping ensure this initiative works to overcome any barriers for those unable to use or access the internet.