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The Australian Communications and Media Authority is reviewing ways to combat scams carried out over telco networks (via phone, email and SMS) as a part of their Scam Technology Project. They invited public feedback on ways technology can block and minimise this type of scam activity, how consumers experience and avoid scams, and current challenges to stopping scam activity. ACCAN’s submission focuses on the consumer experience of scams, and how to improve consumer education about scam activity.

The NBN Transfer Code sets out principles for industry co-operation in the management of transfers of NBN services between retail service providers. Recently, the NBN Transfer Code was reviewed by the Communications Alliance.

In our submission ACCAN recommended that the Code be reconfirmed, and that:

  • the code be revised to include time-frames for the transfer of services;

  • the code be revised to oblige providers to inform consumers if a fault occurs in the transfer process;

  • the code incorporate reference to the Australian Privacy Principles for smaller providers in order to ensure a consistent industry wide approach to privacy.

Calling Number Display (CND) allows the people you call to see your telephone number displayed on the screen of their telephone. It applies to both mobile phones and landlines. If you don't have a silent line, unlisted number or have not blocked CND, the people you call will generally be able to see your number on their telephone screen.

The CND feature has important privacy implications because there may be times when consumers don't want their number identified to the person they are calling. Recently, the Calling Number Display Guideline was reviewed by the Communications Alliance.

In our submission ACCAN recommended that the Guideline be reconfirmed, and that:

In 2019, the telco industry is reviewing the Mobile Premium Services (MPS) Code. Mobile Premium Services (MPS) allow consumers to pay for digital content (like apps or games) and services (like competition entries, voting and charity donations) on their mobile phone account or using pre-paid credit.

The MPS Code aims to safeguard consumers from an industry which has a history of poor practice.

ACCAN believes that many of the additional protections proposed in the public consultation will have little or no substantive effect on consumer outcomes due to their limited scope and applicability.

The ACCC is reviewing the performance standards that NBN provides to its customers (telco retailers). This includes NBN response times to fix problems on its network and get consumer premises connected. Currently, these standards and any penalties for breaches are contained in commercial contracts with NBN’s customers. The ACCC is reviewing whether further measures are required to improve NBN’s service.

The Federal Government is reviewing Telstra’s Carrier Licence as the existing one is due to expire in April 2019. The Government has proposed to maintain the existing conditions of Telstra’s licence with some minor amendments for current policies.

ACCAN has proposed that the remaking of Telstra’s licence conditions offers the opportunity to improve Telstra’s network reliability framework that reports Telstra’s network performance. Telstra’s copper network will remain important in regional areas outside the fixed NBN footprint such that improved monitoring continues to be important after the NBN is rolled out.

Image of a calculator Telecommunication services are essential for ensuring public health and safety, promoting access to educational and employment opportunities as well as social inclusiveness. ACCAN’s Pre-Budget Submission 2019-20 identifies market gaps and provides recommendations on telecommunications initiatives that will benefit consumers including:

The Federal Government is reviewing consumer protections in telecommunications. The aim is to ascertain whether existing arrangements will be fit for purpose in an environment where NBN is the underlying infrastructure provider, and consumer use of services has changed considerably since the existing framework was developed. The review is divided into three parts:

  • Part A – Redress and Complaints Handling - completed in 2018.
  • Part B – Reliability of Services - launched in November 2018 with submissions closing 18 January 2019.
  • Part C – Choice and Fairness - expected in the first half of 2019.

Parts 7 and 8 of the Telecommunications Act provide an important basis to ensure that broadband networks operate in a similar way and to the benefit of consumers. They require network operators to offer services to any retail providers on request (offer open access on a non-discriminatory basis) and that they must operate separate to the retail level (wholesale only). While these specify the operation of networks, the ultimate aim is to ensure competitive networks exist that benefit consumer by increasing choice of providers.

Since 2012 Telstra have had an exemption to comply with these requirements in the South Brisbane network area. Telstra have now requested a further extension, with the Minister for Communications and the Arts has proposing an extension to January 2020 (designated day).

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently undertook a Review of the Emergency Call Service (ECS) Determination. The ECS Determination imposes requirements on carriers, carriage service providers and emergency call persons regarding access to the emergency call service. The purpose of this Review was to consider whether the ECS Determination is still relevant and whether its obligations remain consistent and robust. This Review was recommended by the Department of Communications and the Arts, in its report into the Triple Zero service disruptions in May 2018.

ACCAN made a submission to the ACMA’s Review, in which we provided recommendations about how the emergency call service could be made more accessible and more reliable.

ACCAN has made a brief submission to the Senate Inquiry into Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services. We highlighted the value of Australian content for people with disability in particular, and outlined that everyone should have access to Australian content.

In our submission, ACCAN explained that some accessibility features are readily included on Australian content, whereas others aren’t available (or aren’t consistently available). This is because there are no clear legislative requirements or protections to ensure access to Australian programming across all platforms.

ACCAN has made a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). The Assistance and Access Bill seeks to amend current legislation to facilitate access by law enforcement agencies to the content of stored communications, such as texts, emails and call data.

ACCAN has expressed serious concerns about the Bill, alongside many other Australian and global stakeholders, including those from the telecommunications industry, technology sector, human rights and consumer organisations. In its current form the Bill will provide access to consumers’ data without their knowledge or adequate judicial oversight. The Bill will act to weaken encryption systems by forcing technology companies, device manufacturers, and other relevant parties, to build into their software and systems an entry-point (or backdoor) to encrypted data.