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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.

The Federal Government is working on a Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) project. The project aims to make it easier for people to have a single digital identity when accessing government services online. These services might include Medicare, tax, and Centrelink.

ACCAN has submitted to the Government on the process it has followed in the TDIF project so far.

The Department of Communications and the Arts asked ACCAN to comment on whether the Do Not Call Register Regulations 2006 continue to play a valuable role in telemarketing. The Regulations support the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 by specifying some types of calls that are not intended to constitute telemarketing calls. Examples of these types of calls are product recall calls, fault rectification calls, and calls related to payments and bills.

ACCAN believes that the Regulations still play an important role in telemarketing, but think that some amendments could be made to strengthen consumer protections.

The Productivity Commission is investigating the costs and benefits of increasing the availability and use of private and public data by individuals and organisations, including consumers’ access to data about themselves. Increasing the availability and use of data could stimulate innovation and competition, leading to increased choice and better decision-making for consumers. ACCAN broadly supports the Productivity Commission’s inquiry but outlines a number of concerns and recommendations in its submission.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can use Telstra’s ADSL network to supply consumers with internet services without the need for their own equipment, called Wholesale ADSL (WADSL) services. To ensure that consumers can access a range of ISPs at affordable prices the ACCC declared these WADSL services in 2012 for a 5 year period. With the current declaration expiring next year the ACCC is investigating if this is still needed.

The current USO only guarantees the supply of a standard telephone voice service. ACCAN believes this scope must be broadened to not only guarantee voice services, but also data services, essential content (education and government services) and include service guarantees for connection, fault repairs and reliability standards.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has undertaken a review of the captioning obligations in Part 9D of the Broadcasting Services Act (1992) as prescribed in the legislation. ACCAN participated in the consultation in a written submission. Our response to the review reiterates ACCAN’s long-held view that accurate and comprehensible captions on broadcast television are essential for full and equitable access to our foremost medium for news, information and entertainment for all those Australians who rely on captions when viewing television.

The Australian Consumer Law (ACL) came in five years ago to help protect consumers. It is now being reviewed to make sure it is up to date.

ACCAN made 11 recommendations to the ACL Review. We want to make sure the ACL keeps pace with a number of new issues affecting communications consumers. Technology is ever changing and can lead to many benefits for consumers, sometimes laws struggle to keep up with these changes. ACCAN’s submission calls for a closer look at some of these gaps in the law, especially around digital marketplaces and new hybrid goods and services provided as part of the Internet of Things (IoT).

In March 2016 the Department of Communications and the Arts released an options paper: ‘Communications Accessibility: 2016 and Beyond’. The paper proposed a number of options related to the ongoing sustainability of the National Relay Service. The use of the National Relay Service over the past couple of years has increased due to the significant improvements to the service through the introduction of a number of new relay services.

Industry lobby, Communications Alliance, has proposed a number of changes to the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code compliance regime. ACCAN believes the changes may lead to a number of positive changes which should both improve the efficiency of Communications Compliance and provide greater flexibility to smaller suppliers. However, we encouraged the industry group take further steps to address the lack of a publically available, useful performance metrics.