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Friday, 17 April 2009 07:45

New consumer telecoms body scores Allan Asher as CEO

The strength of consumer representation on telecommunications issues has ramped up significantly with the new consumer telecoms body ACCAN naming Allan Asher, a highly experienced and highly regarded consumer champion with a strong telecoms and trade practices background, as its CEO.

The Australian Consumer Communications Action Network (ACCAN) is a new peak boy formed from the merger of the Consumers Telecommunications Network (CTN) and a number of smaller, more specialised consumer telecoms bodies under an initiative kicked off by communications minister, Stephen Conroy. It comes into full operation on 1 July 2009. It already has a website (http://www.accan.org.au/ ) but it is presently one page only. CTN's CEO, Teresa Corbin will be deputy CEO of ACCAN. Both Asher and Corbin will formally commence their roles in July, but are currently working on the formation of ACCAN."

According to ACCAN, "Allan brings vast consumer experience which he has exercised at the very highest levels in Australia, the UK, Europe and at the United Nations." He was head of corporate affairs for the Overseas Telecommunications Corporation until it was merged with Telecom Australia in 1992 to create Telstra. He then joined the ACCC where he became deputy chairman. During that time he was part of a three person panel which undertook and extensive investigation into New Zealand's very lightly regulated telecoms industry; their report recommended a regulatory body and the adoption of an Australian-style declared services regime.

According to ACCAN, "He has been a beacon for consumers in numerous roles...with director positions in the Trade Practices Commission and Choice in Australia, Which? (Choice's equivalent in the UK) and Consumers International, and as director of Energywatch, the gas and electricity consumer council in the UK."

ACCAN chairman Alex Varley, said: "Australian consumers are demanding a fresh approach to consumer consultation and engagement in communications issues, We are confident that Allan will deliver the right mix of local knowledge, appropriate international experience and an exceptional background in consumer representation...She and Allan will make a very strong team with a combination of campaigning, communication and policy skills and a vast knowledge of both the Australian and international scene."

Commenting in May 2008 on his imminent departure from the role of chief executive of Energywatch, as the UK the Government prepared to merge the watchdog into the National Consumer Council. the UK's Times newspaper said: "[Asher] has been a consumer champion for almost all of his working life and has never been one to keep his opinions to himself. One of the proudest moments of his career was as a regulator in Australia, when Mr Asher took a case against rogue insurance companies that were exploiting the Aboriginal community in the Outback - the companies were forced to repay the premiums.

"Born and bred in Australia, Mr Asher, a barrister, clashed with John Howard's right-wing Government, which came to power in 1997. 'I was expelled from Australia and came over here as a political refugee,' he joked."

The Times continued: "As deputy chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Mr Asher did not see eye to eye with Peter Costello, the former treasurer. He was told that his term would not be extended - 'I told them I wouldn't stay on, anyway' - and in 2000 he left with his wife and daughter for the UK.

"After a spell with Consumers International, he joined the consumer magazine Which? as national campaign manager. It was here that he campaigned against the misselling of endowment mortgages, persuading the FSA to investigate. He became chief executive of Energywatch in 2003.

According to The Times, after leaving Energy Watch he planned to complete a 7,000 km bicycle ride from Winchester through Europe to raise awareness for the Girl Guides, and had been asked by the UN to redraft its guidelines for consumer protection, having been in the team to set out the first draft in 1985.

His Wikipedia entry says: "An Australia, Allan is best known as an outstanding consumer advocate and also as having been a tireless worker for the Australian Consumers Association."


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