Government agencies reminded the public that consumers struggling to pay their telco bills that their provider should assist through financial hardship programs.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) sent out statements reminding consumers of their rights and encouraging them to make a complaint when telcos don’t comply.
Providing customers financial hardship programs are part of the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code), and repeat non-compliance of the code would see telcos face penalties of up to $250,000.
ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said consumers need to know that help is available, especially if facing financial hardship.
“Our message is that, if you are having trouble paying your bills, get in contact with your telco service provider today.”
Financial hardship policies were the focus of ACMA’s State of play report, revealing that 36,500 consumers entered into a financial hardship arrangement with their telco in the 2018–19 financial year.
At the end of that year some 10,000 remained on the programs with a combined financial hardship debt of $5.71 million.
TIO welcomed ACMA’s report, revealing that it received 1883 complaints from residential customers and small businesses from July to December 2019 about debt management related to mobile phone services.
Ombudsman Judi Jones said staying connected through phone and internet to family, friends and community was critical.
"The message for people or small businesses at risk of financial hardship is talk to your telco straight away,” she said.
“It is pleasing to see many providers adopting temporary measures to support people who may be facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage providers offering such supporting to communicate this clearly on their website.”
“If you can’t pay your bills, there are rules in place telcos must follow to support you. Give your telco a chance to work through this with you. If your problem remains unresolved, make a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. We’re here to help.”