Business (Australia)

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Unlikely bedmates: union strikes Airbnb deal ‘to protect delivery drivers’ | Technology

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Airbnb will pay union members $150 to sign up as hosts under an unusual deal the Transport Workers Union says is about ending the exploitation of delivery drivers.

Under the deal, Airbnb will actively promote food and package delivery companies that do the right thing by their workers – although the union says none currently meets its standards.

Airbnb will also put $50 for each new union host into a not-for-profit company set up by the TWU.

The union has been campaigning against food delivery companies including UberEats, Deliveroo and Foodora over pay and conditions for their workers.

The union said none of the food delivery companies in the market were meeting its benchmarks on ethical labour practices, meaning there were currently no providers Airbnb could endorse. But it said the new deal was about effecting change.

“This is really a call for companies to lift their standards, that there are opportunities for them,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said.

“Rather than going to the lowest standard, where people won’t get paid superannuation, don’t have workers’ compensation, and are paid below minimum wages, this is about encouraging the new economy to lift standards.”

Sheldon said the situation was different for package delivery, where there were existing companies worthy of endorsement for the way they treated their workers.

He said Airbnb would endorse deserving delivery companies by giving its own business to them, and by encouraging Airbnb hosts to use and recommend them.

For every new union host, Airbnb will also give $50 to Teacho, a not-for-profit company established by the TWU with employers and industry experts.

Its aims include improving research, training, industrial rights, and health and safety standards for transport workers.

Airbnb’s public policy chief, Brent Thomas, said ethical companies needed to do their bit to make sure “technology was a force for good”.

“With wages flat and the cost of living high, we want to empower working families by helping them earn extra income and promote good, well-paying jobs. We are proud to partner with the TWU which fights tirelessly for the rights of workers,” he said in a statement.

UberEats, Deliveroo and Foodora have been contacted for comment.

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Australia newsBusiness (Australia)Cambridge AnalyticaFacebookSocial networkingTechnology

Facebook data harvesting and the hunt for the ‘friend’ who betrayed me | Michael McGowan | Technology

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Two weeks ago I logged into good old Facebook dot com to discover I was one of the 311,127 Australians – and one of about 87 million people worldwide – who had their personal data harvested by Cambridge Analytica sometime around 2013-15.

I was a small and unwitting cog in a vast, beguiling narrative of unfurling geopolitical upheaval encompassing the Trump presidency, Russian interference and Brexit.

Here’s what Facebook told me. I was not one of the 270,000-odd people who signed up to the now infamous This is Your Digital Life survey app but one of my friends was. As a result, Facebook “probably” shared my public profile, page likes, my date of birth and the city I lived in.

Oh, and if I’d written messages – public or private – to my friend who did the quiz, they might have shared those too.

Guardian Australia has revealed that only 53 people in Australia installed the app. Was one of my friends among them? Did they know what they were getting me into? What did they buy with the few dollars they were paid to complete the survey?

So for the past two weeks, with the thought that Donald Trump being in the White House is maybe a little bit my fault sloshing around in my head, I’ve undertaken the most socially awkward investigation of my career.

It was a mostly pointless and frankly harrowing deep dive into the bowels of my own Facebook account in search of patient zero. Like having unprotected sex with 500 people for a decade and then trying to figure out which one of them gave you chlamydia.

The results so far are inconclusive. Prime suspects – such as my father, whose habit of clicking incoherently on pretty much anything the internet prompts him to is legendary – have proved to be dead ends. The guy from university who appears to be preternaturally geared towards sharing random Buzzfeed quizzes has been given the all clear.

I’ve narrowed it down to about 40 of my 436 current Facebook contacts, mostly by sending a pro forma message to hundreds of my friends and asking them to check whether their data was compromised. (Facebook has started warning me that it “looks I’m using this feature in a way that it wasn’t meant to be used”, which almost feels too obviously ironic to bother pointing out.)

Most people have been happy to show me screenshots but a troubling number of so-called friends have seen the message and not responded. I glower at the little picture of them in the chat window, my suspicion growing.

Others have proved frustratingly resource intensive. Facebook friendship runs infamously parallel to actual friendship, and I have had to spend hours catching up on what X from high school has been doing in the past 11 years in an effort to convince them I am not a spambot.

There are any number of holes in my search method, of course. There’s nothing stopping them from lying to me and there’s a lingering feeling of distrust surrounding those who simply respond “wasn’t me” and then ignore follow-up questions about whether they actually checked.

But what happens if it turns out to be none of them? By downloading my Facebook data I know there are about 60 other former friends who I deleted in culling sprees in 2013 and 2015. If I get to the end of my current list, I will have to start contacting those people.

The conversations will be … weird. What about P, a girl I added after meeting in a nightclub in the north of England about eight years ago and never spoke to again? I looked up her profile the other night. She’s married now and looks as happy as can be reasonably expected in 2018.

Presumably she is unaware that Jared Kushner may well know she likes the film Boyhood.

Can I really bring myself to tell her?

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Australia newsAustralian economyBusiness (Australia)CanberraPerthSuperannuationSydneyTechnologyUber

Uber’s underpayment of drivers keeping it afloat, report finds | Technology

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Uber’s fares are made possible because the company is significantly underpaying its drivers, a new report argues.

UberX drivers earn well below minimum wage once all hidden costs are taken into account, according to analysis by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute think tank.

Australians earn $14.62 per hour on average driving for the ridesharing company’s most popular and low-cost service, UberX, the report estimated. This rose to more than $18 for those driving in Sydney and Canberra and dropped to under $11 for those in Perth. The earnings are below the basic statutory minimum wage of $18.29 per hour, and well below the award pay for waged workers in the sector, which is around $30 when weighted for penalties.

The analysis was conducted by taking typical urban fares in six cities and deducting driver fees, taxes and vehicle costs. They found the driver was left with only one-third of the takings.

The report’s author, economist Jim Stanford, says Uber’s business model would collapse without the poorly paid labour.

“The low incomes of their drivers are essential to the escalation of Uber’s market value that has made some people fabulously rich,” he said. “The company dresses this up as flexibility but the money is so bad and uncertain that it’s only in an environment that people are desperate that this model can work.”

The cost of regular taxis are on average about 40% higher than UberX fares.

Stanford, who is the Centre for Future Work’s director, said in addition to the low hourly pay, drivers miss out on other protections and entitlements such as superannuation, workers’ compensation and leave entitlements.

Around 80,000 Australians are driving for Uber, which is not yet turning a profit. The Fair Work Commission recently ruled that Uber drivers are not employees but rather independent contractors.

A report in the US recently found some drivers end up losing money after insurance, maintenance and other costs.

Guardian Australia has contacted Uber for comment. David Rohrsheim, the general manager of Uber in Australia, told the ABC’s 7.30 program “earnings change depending on what time people chose to log on”.

“Drivers know this and the smart ones log on at the right times, in the right areas, and earn the big bucks.”

Stanford said it is unreasonable to expect drivers to rely on surges as they have no control over them or advanced knowledge of when they will occur.

Luke McMahon sold his car last week after driving UberX in Sydney for three years because it had become increasingly unprofitable.

“When I started driving it was considerably more lucrative because there were a lot less drivers on the road,” he said. “But there was a noticeable shift over the years as more drivers joined up and the periods of surge became far less frequent.”

After 1,688 trips, the 30-year-old has turned his back on Uber in favour of a more reliable job in retail.

“I stopped because driving those long hours was having a toll on my body and relationships, and my motivation was waning as the potential earnings were dropping.”

He said most people who seek his advice regarding Uber were unaware of the costs involved.

“There are on-road costs, registration, petrol, insurance, tax and GST, and the depreciation on your vehicle is so extreme,” he said. “For me it was really precarious because if I were to have an accident I would lose my main source of income without any safety net.”

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AmazonAustralia newsBusiness (Australia)Retail industry

Australian retailers resilient as they face down ‘Amazon effect’ | Technology

Australian retailers resilient as they face down ‘Amazon effect’ | Technology

Analysts say local competitors are as profitable as before the global giant’s ‘underwhelming’ launch – but for how much longer?

The threat of Amazon’s growth in Australia is spooking investors.
Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Three months after the launch of Amazon in Australia, local competitors say they are still waiting for the dreaded “Amazon effect” to hit their sales.

Analysts, and some of the retailers themselves, say they are still as profitable as before Amazon’s “underwhelming” launch – for now.

On the stock market, where investors tend to have one eye firmly on the future, it’s a different story.

On Monday, high-performing local retailer JB Hi-Fi released a half-yearly update: growing profits, a steady market share, a drop in profit margins and disappointing results in New Zealand. As a result, its stock dropped 7.5% in the first three hours of trading – the company’s biggest volume of stock traded since 2016.

The day illustrated the fears investors have about the Amazon effect, despite the resilience of local retailers’ sales figures.

Kim Do, a senior industry analyst at Ibisworld, said the global giant had not yet actually affected retailers, with an undeveloped supply chain holding prices high enough to keep customers away.

Amazon launched just three months ago and has only one fulfilment facility, or warehouse, in Dandenong in Victoria.

“Amazon is not directly affecting retailers as yet,” Do said. “We believe that it can hurt share prices more than earnings performance.”

She said the threat of Amazon’s growth in the future was spooking investors and dampening stock prices, while not affecting sales.

On Monday, JB Hi-Fi announced its net profit grew 21% over the six months between July and December last year, with online sales surging 40%.

But its chief executive, Richard Murray, said the company was consciously discounting its products in order to stay competitive with Amazon. As profits rose in total, the profit margins dropped 20 basis points, which Murray said was a result of selling more low-profit items such as computers and phones and less high-margin DVDs, CDs and software.

“There is a lot happening in our market, so we just want to make sure we’ve got the firepower to remain competitive,” he said. “We’re aware of Amazon and others and what they’re doing in the market and we want to put our best foot forward.”

Do said this had caused the slide despite JB’s good performance.

“They’ve been employing a discounting strategy to continue growing at the pace they’re at. This may concern some investors who might believe this is not a sustainable way to grow.”

JB Hi-Fi

JB Hi-Fi has been discounting its products in order to stay competitive with Amazon. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

JB Hi-Fi’s stock dropped to a low of $25.86 on Monday, before recovering slightly. However, the stock had risen 16% since Christmas after strong holiday sales.

In the hardware sector, the Australian reported on Monday that suppliers currently tied to Bunnings Warehouse were asking the company if they could also begin supplying Amazon.

The chief executive of Bunnings, Michael Schneider, told the paper he “welcomed” the “highly competitive environment”.

“We view our supplier relationships as a partnership … we appreciate and understand they have their own business plans and respect any decisions they make as part of this.”

Do said the future impact of Amazon was difficult to predict, due to how little time it had spent in Australia, and hinged on its ability to set up supply chains.

“The biggest challenge will be adapting to the Australian market in terms of distribution,” she said. “Our population is very dispersed, unlike the home market in the US, where distribution costs are much lower.

“It’s really uncertain at the moment. We are expecting them to open a lot more fulfilment centres by mid to late this year.”

Amazon told Guardian Australia it could not provide any figures for the company’s current market share, sales or profits in Australia, or plans for the future.

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Amazon launches in Australia, cranking up Christmas competition | Technology

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Amazon has launched in Australia, ending months of speculation around the timing of when it would finally open its full offering Down Under and setting up a sales frenzy before Christmas.

The e-commerce giant has already been selling Kindle e-reader devices, audio books and content from its Australian website but it has now activated its full-service local offering, featuring its own products and items sold by small local retailers.

The US retailer is known for sacrificing profit for sales through aggressively low prices and its greater presence in Australia is expected to benefit customers but bring more pain for local retailers.

Retail analysts at Citi believe large local electronics retailers JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman will be among the hardest hit by the disruption the global behemoth is expected to create.

Morgan Stanley analysts have previously warned that Kmart and Target’s parent company Wesfarmers could lose $400m in annual earnings to Amazon by the 2026 financial year.

In November, Amazon had notified its sellers that it would begin an internal testing phase with a small number of customers.

One of Australia’s leading retailers, Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman, said he was not worried about Amazon and warned consumers to beware of its promises to deliver before Christmas.

“If you order something off Amazon, heads you get it, tails you don’t,” he told Seven.

He was confident Harvey Norman would not be affected by Amazon, but said he was concerned with its business practices.

“We are here to take Amazon on,” he said. “The big thing I am worried about is if they go and do predatory pricing, they will go out and sell it at a loss to send other retailers broke – that is retailers who are employing people, paying taxes.”

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Australia newsAustralian politicsBusiness (Australia)InternetNational broadband network (NBN)Technology

NBN Co warns of delays after suspending rollout of HFC network | Technology

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Hundreds of thousands of Australians could be forced to wait months longer than expected to be connected to the national broadband network via pay television cables.

NBN Co on Monday announced it was temporarily suspending the rollout of the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network to “improve customer experience”. It warned of delays of six to nine months in new areas.

“While the good news is that we are working on a better experience for the internet providers and end users, the improvement efforts will take additional time,” the NBN chief executive, Bill Morrow, said. “We remain confident of reaching our goal of completing the build and connecting 8 million Australian premises by 2020.”

Nearly 1m premises are ready to connect via HFC, with 370,000 having already done so.

Morrow said too many Australians were not having the experience they deserved when getting connected over the HFC network and some were not experiencing its full potential.

Internet providers have been told of the changes and the NBN website will be updated in coming weeks so people can check their address to see if there are any changes to their connection date.

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Australia newsAustralian lawAustralian politicsBusiness (Australia)CoalitionFacial recognitionPrivacySurveillanceTechnology

Coalition could allow firms to buy access to facial recognition data | Technology

Coalition could allow firms to buy access to facial recognition data | Technology

The federal government is considering allowing private companies to use its national facial recognition database for a fee, documents released under Freedom of Information laws reveal.

The partially redacted documents show that the Attorney General’s Department is in discussions with major telecommunications companies about pilot programs for private sector use of the Facial Verification Service in 2018. The documents also indicate strong interest from financial institutions in using the database.

The government has argued that the use of facial recognition is necessary for national security and to cut down on crimes such as identity fraud. The Attorney General’s Department says private companies could only use the service with the person’s consent.

But experts and civil society advocates have expressed concerns over lack of transparency and oversight of facial recognition programs.

Monique Mann, a director of the Australian Privacy Foundation and a lecturer at the faculty of law at the Queensland University of Technology, said that requiring companies to ask for consent may not be enough to protect consumers’ rights or mitigate the risks involved with biometric data, and would encourage firms to store more data.

“There are questions about whether individuals are able to make voluntary informed decisions and opt out of these schemes, even if they are aware that it is happening.

“If the alternative would be not being able to access important services, like opening a bank account, can you really say that customers are giving their consent freely?

“In practice, this program will effectively encourage private companies to build their own facial recognition databases. Once that data is created, it becomes very difficult for people to know how securely it will be stored, who it will be shared with and what information it will be connected to, and to what end.”

Slide from Attorney General’s Department presentation on the Face Verification Service. Photograph: Elise Thomas

The government struck a deal with states and territories over the controversial national facial recognition database last month. According to the documents, which predate the agreement, at that time 50% of the population was already included in the database. With the help of state and territory governments, the federal Attorney General’s Department planned to expand that number to cover 85% of Australians.

According to the partially redacted documents, “the [Attorney General’s] Department is currently in exploratory discussions with some of the major telecommunications carriers [redacted] regarding their potential use of the [Face Verification Service].” Under the plan, companies using the FVS would collect a facial image of their customer and send it to the “Biometric Interoperability Hub”.

The hub then uses the national database to check the photo against an image on one of their government records, such as a passport or driving license photo, to verify that it is the same person. The company would receive a yes/no response, without seeing the image held by the government or having direct access to the database.

The process will be similar to the current Document Verification Service (DVS), which has been available to private companies since 2014 and is used to verify information on customers’ driving licenses, passports, Medicare cards, visas, citizenship certificates and immigration cards.

Companies pay a fee to the government for each transaction with the DVS. Some 15.5m private business transactions were processed in 2016, most of them by telecommunications companies. According to the released documents, “this has provided a consistent and growing source of revenue to fund further security initiatives. Private sector use of the FVS could provide similar benefits”.

The documents also note that in addition to discussions with the telecommunications companies “large financial institutions have shown a strong interest in accessing the FVS.

“Use of the FVS would address vulnerabilities created by identity takeover… [and] support the financial sector in complying with their obligations under the anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing regulations and be positive generally for identity security”.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Department said that no pilot programs had currently commenced, but declined to answer questions about which companies the department is in discussions with for pilot programs or how far those discussions have progressed. 12 telecommunications providers currently use the DVS, including Optus and Telstra.

According to the department spokesperson: “Any private sector organisations using the FVS would need to demonstrate their lawful basis to do so under the Privacy Act, and could only use the FVS where they gain a person’s consent to use their images.

“These and other controls will be included in legally binding arrangements with the commonwealth into which all users of the service will enter. The arrangements for private sector access will be informed by an independent privacy impact assessment.

“Use could initially be for access to images held by commonwealth agencies. Access to driver license images would be subject to the agreement of state and territory governments.”

In order to use the FVS as planned, private companies which are not currently collecting biometric data will need to start gathering facial images of their customers to send for verification. Once they have invested in creating and verifying the images, there are concerns that companies are unlikely to simply delete them.

The recent mass data breach at Equifax, which exposed highly sensitive personal information such as medical histories, credit scores and social security numbers belonging to over 143 million US citizens, added to concern. Equifax is currently one of the approved gateway service providers for the Australian DVS.

Tim Singleton Norton, the chair of Digital Rights Watch, said: “There is a severe lack of strong oversight mechanisms and general enforcement for human rights and civil liberties in this country, which results in the public being understandably wary about giving government more powers in the first place.

“The public need to be able to trust that governments can adequately store and protect this information from theft or misuse.

“When individuals enter into an agreement with a government agency that includes their personal information, they should have the right to understand, be informed and have a say in where that information is held and what is being used for.

“That includes knowing who is able to make use of their data. The government should be transparent with the public about their negotiations with private companies to allow the use of the facial recognition database, and how those companies will be held accountable for securing the biometric data they create as part of this program.”

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AmazonAustralia newsBlack FridayBusinessBusiness (Australia)E-commerceRetail industryTechnology

Amazon spells black Friday for Australian retailers, but an early boon for consumers | Technology

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It looks as though Black Friday will be the day when the US online behemoth Amazon opens its Australian site, sparking what is likely to be a major price war in the retail market.

Amazon said 10 days ago its launch in Australia was “very close”. This week it reportedly sent emails to suppliers indicating it would have a soft launch on Thursday and formally begin trading on Friday. This coincides with the post-Thanksgiving shopping spree Black Friday, the biggest single day in the US retail calendar.

If the deals already being offered for Black Friday in America are any guide, Australian consumers can expect some deep discounting on a wide range of items. Some offers include 25% to 40% off Kindles, $500 off Canon SLR cameras and 70% off fitness trackers.

The Australian site,, is up and running but is now only offering Kindle titles. But products such as laptops, cables and modems can be found via the site’s search engine as the company prepares for takeoff.

For consumers, the arrival of Amazon almost certainly means a new wave of deep discounting in the lead-up to Christmas and continuing during the traditional sales period in January.

It also potentially means that Australian retailers will sharpen up their service and their online presences as they come to terms with a local version of Amazon on their doorstep.

But while consumers will benefit in the short term, the question is what will be the long-term impacts? And will it ultimately be good or bad for Australia?

With the local retail sector already struggling with weak consumer sentiment, stagnant wage growth and higher energy bills, the arrival of Amazon is being seen as the next tsunami to hit it. Only 6% to 7% of sales take place online in Australia, compared with 15% to 16% in the US.

The Seattle-based company announced in April that it was coming to Australia and bringing its full set of offerings: Amazon Prime Now, Amazon MarketPlace and eventually Amazon Pantry and AmazonFresh.

In July it began setting up its first distribution centre in Dandenong, Melbourne.

Retailers are expecting it to begin with discounted offerings in electronic goods, books, small appliances and fashion as it seeks to lure Australian shoppers to its platform.

Kim Do, a senior industry analyst at Ibisworld, which specialises in the retail sector, said the retailers that would feel it most were companies such as Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Kogan, Good Guys and the big department stores.

“It is products such as domestic appliances like kettles, toasters, etc which are easily comparable online that will be attractive on Amazon,” she said. “Larger appliances like fridges, etc – most people want to look at them.”

The arrival laid down a challenge to bricks-and-mortar retailers, she said, which would need to build on a reputation for service as a way of keeping customers.

In fashion, Do said Amazon might struggle to compete with the huge range and two-hour delivery of online retailers such as The Iconic.

There was speculation that Amazon might delay the introduction of Amazon Prime, which guarantees two-day delivery, until it has more distribution centres. “The sparseness of Australia’s population is a challenge for Amazon,” Do said.

Bookshops have already experienced the Amazon effect when it launched in the US in 1994, undercutting prices in the Australian market.

But Amazon will need to tread warily if it starts a price war. The new “effects test”, which makes it an offence to engage in behaviour that has the effect of driving a competitor out of business, as opposed to intending to do it, has just come into law.

“We have the benefit of seeing that happened in the US and UK, so we should be able to be more proactive,” said Joel Becker, chief executive of the Australian Booksellers Association, adding that shops would still have to improve their service.

Amazon was also likely to shake up not just conventional retailers, but also marketplace sites such as eBay and Gumtree.

Two weeks ago hundreds of Australian merchants attended a seminar in Sydney to hear from Amazon executives who told them a third-party marketplace would be available upon launch. Retailers will pay $49.95 plus GST each month to sell on Amazon, plus 6% to 15% of each item sold.

The small business ombudsman, Kate Carnell, said the arrival of Amazon offered both threats and opportunities for small business.

Amazon Marketplace offered a potentially powerful platform for them, she said, and could help cut the cost of postage and transport which could be crippling for small companies operating their own online portals.

“But nothing comes for nothing, and so they need to be aware of the fine print,” she warned, particularly if small businesses planned to build up stock to meet the expected surge in sales.

Carnell has already contacted Amazon to remind them of Australia’s contract laws, which apply not just to consumers but to small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

She said the the US version of its marketplace contract raised red flags because it gave Amazon wide-ranging rights to terminate a contract with a small business at any time and for any reason. This would probably fall foul of the Australian law, she said.

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Telstra offers to refund 42,000 customers for slow NBN | Technology

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Telstra has offered to refund 42,000 customers for slow national broadband network speeds, following an investigation by the consumer watchdog.

The telco will offer remedies to those who purchased internet services through both Telstra and Belong brands between September 2015 and November this year after admitting it breached consumer law by promising NBN speeds that it was not capable of delivering.

“All businesses have a responsibility to ensure that claims about the performance of their products or services are accurate,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, Rod Sims, said.

One of the affected services was a “Super Fast Speed Boost” plan, which advertised maximum download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second and maximum upload speeds of up to 40 Mbps (100/40 Mbps).

In reality, many of Telstra’s fibre to the node and fibre to the building customers were not even capable of receiving the maximum speeds of a lower-speed plan, Sims said, adding: “In essence, people were paying more to get higher speeds that they just weren’t able to get.”

Telstra will offer affected customers a range of remedies, including refunds, the option to change speed plans, and exit from contracts without paying a fee.

Telstra went to the ACCC to notify it of issues relating to some, but not all, of the affected customers, which the ACCC investigation subsequently uncovered.

“We are pleased that Telstra proactively reported this serious problem to the ACCC and has cooperated in creating a remediation plan for affected customers,” Sims said.

“However, we are mindful this is not just a Telstra problem; it is an industry problem where consumers are often not getting the speeds they are paying for.

“We will continue to investigate other retail service providers selling broadband plans over the NBN and take enforcement action where appropriate.”

Telstra has made a commitment to check the attainable speeds of all new service connections within four weeks. If speeds do not match the advertised offer, it will offer the customer a remedy.

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Adani GroupAustralia newsAustralian politicsBusiness (Australia)CoalitionFacebookJay WeatherillMalcolm TurnbullMarriage equalityOne NationTechnology

How Malcolm Turnbull, GetUp and Adani are using Facebook ads to push their agenda | Technology

How Malcolm Turnbull, GetUp and Adani are using Facebook ads to push their agenda | Technology

If you’re over 25, live in Australia and have a family then you might have seen Malcolm Turnbull pop up in your Facebook feed last week, with a video spruiking the new energy policy.

This video and text post was “sponsored” – that is, someone from the prime minister’s office paid to promote the post as an advertisement.

A few days later, the activist group GetUp posted a video criticising the new energy policy and also paid money to turn it into an ad. They appear to have targeted their video more broadly, limiting it to people over 18 and living in Australia.

The post from Malcolm Turnbull’s Facebook page that was sponsored and targeted to users from Australia over 25 and interested in ‘family’. Photograph: Facebook

Normally it’s very difficult to see when these political ads go out on Facebook. Unless they pop up in your feed, there’s no way to determine that they appeared as an ad. It’s also possible to create “dark posts”, which only show up as ads and not as a post on your Facebook page.

This makes it very difficult to see which groups are campaigning for which cause and fact-check what they’re saying in their ads. Targeted Facebook ads were a tactic seen throughout the Trump campaign and was believed to have contributed to his victory in the 2016 election.

With the help of readers and in collaboration with the US news organisation ProPublica, we’re now tracking these ads and have published a database of all the material.

We’ve already shown how Adani created an ad to respond to revelations its Australian coal operations face growing financial risks and how no campaigners created an ad that told people they could request a new survey form to change their vote.

In the database now are even more ads campaigning on the same-sex marriage survey. Some are from pages that appear to not have any identifying information, which may go against a new law that requires authorisation on all advertising around the sam- sex marriage survey.

The ads target Australian Facebook users based on their age, location and Facebook interests, with the no campaign targeting people interested in “family”, “prayer” or “Christianity”, while ads from yes campaigners have targeted people who liked their pages.

State politics is present too, with a One Nation ad targeting people in Queensland saying: “Queensland, the old parties have lost their way. The old parties have stopped listening to you, they have stopped listening to small business.”

A sponsored post from South Australian premier Jay Weatherill’s page linked to government messaging on job creation, while other state politicians promoted community events.

If you want to help improve transparency around political advertising in Australia, you can read more about how to take part here.

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