If you cannot pay your phone or internet bill by the due date because you are experiencing financial difficulties, you should contact your service provider and let them know about your circumstances. You may qualify for a financial hardship arrangement under the service provider’s financial hardship policy.
Under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, your service provider must inform you about its financial hardship policy and how the provider assesses if you are eligible for the policy. Service providers must also make the following information easy to find:
- contact details for appropriately trained staff who can talk with you about the financial hardship policy
- information about how you can contact community financial counsellors or consumer advocates who deal with people’s financial difficulties.
The policy must be explained to you in summary form upon request, when you indicate that you are experiencing financial hardship, or when the service provider considers you may be eligible. This summary must include:
- the options available to you to assist you to manage your situation. These may include ways to limit access to your telecommunications service or ways to monitor your expenditure and usage
- information about when you can contact the service provider about its financial hardship policy
- information that the service provider might require from you to assess your financial hardship, such as your income details
- an explanation of how the service provider will assess your financial hardship application.
If you apply for a financial hardship arrangement, your service provider must assess your eligibility for such an arrangement in a fair and timely manner, telling you how long it will take to make an assessment of your application. The service provider must not charge you to assess your application for a financial hardship arrangement, or for the administration of any arrangement it offers you.
If the service provider needs supporting documentation from you, it must explain where to send the documentation by either post, fax or to an email address. The service provider may decide not to assess your application if you do not send supporting documentation, or may cancel any arrangement it makes with you, if you provide false or incomplete information.
The service provider must make attempts to make sure you understand the information it needs from you. Your application must be assessed within seven working days of your service provider receiving the final information from you.
If your service provider decides not to offer you a financial hardship arrangement, it must inform you immediately.
Your service provider must follow certain steps before it suspends, restricts or disconnects your service, or before it imposes other conditions on your use of a service.
Financial hardship arrangements that your service provider may offer you include:
- an extension of your bill due date
- flexible options for repayment of amounts you owe over a period of time.
If you agree to accept the proposed arrangement, you may request your service provider set out the assistance details in writing, including your rights and obligations.
If your circumstances change, you can ask your service provider to review the arrangement.
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