Government commits to funding ACCAN

Will enter new funding agreement after the current arrangements expire in May

The government has announced it will continue to fund the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) following a review of consumer representation on telecommunications issues.

The review included a public consultation process, which began in October last year.

The review concluded that ACCAN “has to date provided a voice for consumers in the retail telecommunications sector”. “It has generally managed the competing priorities of diverse types of consumers,” the report states, but adds that “there is room for improvement in the way it performs this role”.

ACCAN is funded under a grant issued by the communications minister under Section 593(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1997. The money itself is drawn from annual telco licence fees collected by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The organisation was formed in 2009 as an effort to overcome fragmented representation of telco consumers, with ACCAN acting as a successor to the Consumers Telecommunications Network (CTN), the Small Enterprise Telecommunications Centre Limited (SETEL) and Telecommunications and Disability Consumer Representation (TEDICORE).

ACCAN is funded to the tune of $2 million a year, and the current funding agreement, which has a five-year term, will expire in May 2017.

The review made additional recommendations, including that efforts be made to boost engagement between ACCAN and industry. That could include sharing information around customer needs, behaviours, preferences and expectations, the report said.

“This would ensure ACCAN has access to the views of the majority of consumers, which is difficult to capture through other means,” it stated.

The report said that revising the ‘statement of intent’ between ACCAN and Communications Alliance would be one vehicle for this, stating that the government “could provide support for this change by including more specific KPIs in any new funding deed entered into with ACCAN”

It also made a number of recommendations for altering the grants program administered by ACCAN.

“The Turnbull Government recognises the ongoing need for consumer representation in telecommunications policy and regulatory processes and has accepted the recommendations of the review,” a statement issued by communications minister Senator Mitch Fifield said.

“It was great to get feedback from the organisations we work closely with including those from the not-for-profit and community sectors and especially from our members,” ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, said in a statement.

“ACCAN works to ensure that all consumers are represented in its work with industry and government. We could not achieve outcomes for consumers without input from our stakeholders. We thank them for their ongoing support and engagement with ACCAN.

“The report also makes recommendations on ACCAN’s engagement with industry. We look forward to continue working with telcos, internet providers and industry bodies to get better outcomes for consumers. We thank them for their positive engagement and ongoing support.”

The full report is available online.

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