Telstra has called out some of its partners for selling inappropriate and unaffordable mobile devices and plans to vulnerable customers.
Writing on Telstra’s Exchange blog, group executive, consumer & small business Michael Ackland said the telco had received worrying reports about a small number of partners selling inappropriate products, particularly to indigenous Australians living in remote communities.
“We found that we hadn’t always got this right and we needed to work harder to rebuild trust with our customers,” said Ackland.
He added that the checks and balances Telstra implemented to avoid these situations were not followed. “Put simply, the standards our customers expect from us, and that we expect from ourselves and our partners, were not met.”
Ackland said it was particularly concerning that trust had been broken with customers and communities.
To make amends, Ackland listed a number of steps Telstra has taken to improve its processes to ensure the carrier and partners don't take advantage of vulnerable Australians.
Firstly, Telstra is responding to complaints and working with customers on individual resolutions.
The company has also introduced number of company-wide actions, including implementing contact centres specifically for rural, remote and Indigenous customers, widening circumstances for external credit assessments (including asking about primary sources of income) and conducting cultural awareness training for frontline staff.
The company will also actively reach out to customers to ensure their plan is aporpriate to their needs. In some instances Telstra will buy back debt from customers left financial hardship by its actions, or those of its partners.
“While the numbers of impacted customers are a small proportion of our overall customer base, we made a decision to implement significant changes to our processes and plans, reflecting how seriously we take any instance where we let our customers down in this way,” wrote Ackland.
“Importantly, we’re also meeting with Indigenous communities and talking to them about our shortcomings. We are speaking openly about them in the hope that it builds trust in the community, while demonstrating that our actions to remedy the situation will ultimately speak louder than our words of apology.”
A handful of companies have been stung in recent years for similar conduct in regional and remote communities. Last year, Queensland-based Local Appliance Rentals was fined $257,500 after an investigation found that the company failed to verify whether customers in regional and remote areas where in a financial position to purchase products.