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The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications sought feedback on whether it should allow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission the power to permit certain fixed line networks to sell both wholesale and retail services.

Currently networks serving up to 2,000 residential premises can operate as both a wholesaler and retailer. The Department consulted on whether this limit should be extended to networks serving up to 12,000 customers in order to encourage investment and create more infrastructure competition. ACCAN considered that this should not happen until the following safeguards have been established:

Communications Alliance, the peak body for the telco industry, is undertaking a routine review of C515:2015, the industry Code on Pre-Selection.

Pre-selection allows consumers with landline phone services on the copper network to use one telco for certain types of calls, but another for different types of calls, such as calls to mobile or international numbers. The Pre-Selection Code sets out technical processes for the industry to follow when establishing and delivering pre-selectable services.

In our submission, ACCAN said that while consumer demand for pre-selection has dropped substantially, the Pre-Selection Code should remain in place until the telco regulator, the ACMA, revokes or changes the Pre-Selection Determination.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications released an exposure draft of the Online Safety Bill in late December 2021 for consultation.

ACCAN provided a submission in response, welcoming the Bill’s move to improve Australia's online safety regulatory regime and shift the onus of responsibility for protection from online harm away from consumers back onto online platforms and services.

ACCAN agreed that some form of pre-emptive and preventative action is needed to protect all consumers from online harms, including those who are most vulnerable (e.g. children and seniors).

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.

Rules about MPS are contained in the MPS Industry Code and two pieces of regulation called Determinations. The MPS Industry Code, is being updated with provisions from MPS Determination 1, so that Determinations 1 and 2 can be repealed in April 2021.

ACCAN is not aware of any issues repealing MPS Determination 1, so long as all key consumer protections are transferred to the MPS Code. ACCAN has identified one key rule in Determination 1 that appears not to have been incorporated in the draft Code: the requirement to provide a customer-convenient service to facilitate the barring of MPS services. This rule should be transferred to the draft Code so customers can easily bar MPS. ACCAN also expressed its concerns regarding the potential removal of important consumer protections contained in Determination 2.

You can read ACCAN’s feedback on the 2019 MPS Industry Code here.

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.

Rules about the delivery of MPS are in the MPS Industry Code and two regulations called MPS Determinations. The ACMA is looking to repeal the two MPS Determinations and transfer some protections to the MPS Industry Code: particularly the rule that requires telcos to allow their customers to bar access to MPS. You can read ACCAN’s feedback on the MPS Industry Code here.

ACCAN is not aware of any issues repealing MPS Determination 1, so long as all key consumer protections are transferred to the MPS Code. ACCAN has concerns about fully repealing Determination 2, as it contains some protections that remain important to safeguard consumers.

You can read ACCAN’s feedback on the separate consultation by industry group Communications Alliance on proposed changes to the 2019 MPS Industry Code here.

Communications are an essential service. ACCAN’s Pre-Budget Submission 2020-21 outlines policies, programs and areas of need for communications consumers that should be addressed in the Australian Government’s upcoming 2020-21 Budget. Affordability, accessibility, regional access and infrastructure, and empowered consumer decision-making are areas where continued government investment is vital to ensure all Australians benefit from connectivity.

ACCAN responded to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’ consultation on the circumstances in which Statutory Infrastructure Providers are exempt from the obligation to connect and supply premises with wholesale communications services, via telecommunication retail providers. The Department has been consulting on the draft Telecommunications (Statutory Infrastructure Provider – Circumstances for Exceptions to Connection and Supply Obligations) Determination 2020 that would give effect to these arrangements.

It is important that premises are only refused connection and supply of telecommunications services in limited and reasonable circumstances. ACCAN considers that generally the draft determination proposed by the Department ensures this is achieved.

ACCAN has responded to the Digital Transformation Agency’s consultation paper on proposed laws for the Australian Government’s Govpass digital identity platform.

ACCAN’s recommendations included:

  • All privacy and consumer protection safeguards in the Digital Identity Framework must be enshrined in law to ensure compliance;
  • The definition of Digital Identity should be harmonised with the revised Privacy Act to create a robust network of privacy protections for consumers; and
  • A charging framework should not be introduced as it will discourage some non-government organisations from using the Digital Identity system.

In December 2020, ACCAN submitted to the Australian Attorney General’s Department Issues Paper consultation on the review of the Privacy Act 1988. Our submission aimed to ensure privacy settings empower consumers and protect their data, and we worked closely with privacy advocates in developing our response. The review is part of the Australian Government's response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Digital Platforms Inquiry.

In late 2020 the Department of Social Services consulted on the Outcomes Frameworks for the National Disability Strategy (the Strategy) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The Outcomes Frameworks are intended to track progress over time to consider whether the Strategy and NDIS are improving the lives of people with disability in Australia.

In ACCAN’s submission, we explained that accessible and affordable digital communications technologies are essential to facilitate a more inclusive and accessible society for people with disability in Australia. We argued that outcomes and measures relating to digital communications technologies must therefore be included in the Outcomes Frameworks for both the Strategy and the NDIS.

The ACMA have proposed new rules to improve telecommunications service standards.
ACCAN supports the draft rules because they ensure telcos pass on to affected customers certain rebates received from wholesalers, such as NBN, when issues of delayed connections and fault repairs, and missed appointments occur. In our submission, we urged that the customer should receive the full amount of rebate, whether that be a direct financial payment or through a measure put in place by their telcos to fix the issue, such as 4G back-up modems.

ACCAN recently made a submission to the Digital Industry Groups (DIGI) consultation on their voluntary industry Code on disinformation. The Code has been developed in response to ‘Regulating in the Digital Age: Government Response and Implementation Roadmap for the Digital Platforms Inquiry’. The Code outlines what the digital platforms will do to address concerns regarding disinformation and credibility signaling for news content in the Australian context.