Consumer avenger named Federal Ombudsman

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Consumer avenger named Federal Ombudsman

ACCAN's Allan Asher accedes.

Career consumer advocate Allan Asher has been chosen as the Federal Government's Commonwealth Ombudsman, moving on from his attempts to take the telecommunications industry to task as chief of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

The Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates public complaints about the administrative actions of Federal Government agencies.

Asher's appointment follows the resignation of former Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, who has moved on to the role of Information Commissioner Designate.

Cabinet Secretary Joe Ludwig said in a statement that Asher brings "a wealth of experience, intellectual rigour, leadership and independence" to the role.

Asher has worked for EnergyWatch and the Office of Fair Trading in the UK, but in Australia is best known for his policy suggestions whilst leading ACCAN.

ACCAN is a government-funded telecommunications consumer advocacy that was launched among what ACMA chief Chris Chapman calls the "regulatory soup" of similar bodies - including industry-funded Australian Telecommunications User Group (ATUG) and CommsAlliance; industry regulator Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Government's competition watchdog the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).

ACCAN cost the Government $700,000 to establish.

Asher dedicated his time to tackling Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's bugbear, customer service standards in the telco industry.

He proposed such schemes as fining a telco $50 for every time it was "proven" to have delivered poor customer service and described internet-connected PC's as "high-powered cars without seatbelts", calling for the a new division of the DBCDE to be established to force PC vendors to pre-install security features with any new machine.

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