The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is reminding consumers that there are options available if they are experiencing financial distress and struggling to pay their telco bills.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said that telcos have financial hardship programs available to support Australian consumers facing difficulties.
“Telecommunication services are playing a critical role in keeping Australians connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers need to know that help is available to keep you connected, especially if you are facing financial hardship,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
“Our message is that, if you are having trouble paying your bills, get in contact with your telco service provider today.”
Telco financial hardship policies are the focus of a new State of play report—the first of its kind by the ACMA. The report shows that 36,500 consumers entered into a financial hardship arrangement with their telco in the 2018–19 financial year. At year’s end, there were around 10,000 customers remaining on these arrangements with a combined financial hardship debt of $5.71 million.
More than three-quarters of this debt related to mobile phone services.
“While not completely comparable, we have included publicly reported data about the quantum of financial hardship debt experienced by consumers with their electricity and gas providers.
“In 2018–19, Australian consumers appear to be incurring significantly less financial hardship debt for their telco services than other utility sectors,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
The State of play report was initiated by the ACMA to look at telco’s compliance with new Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code credit and financial hardship rules. This was identified as an ACMA 2019–20 compliance priority.
Repeat non-compliance with the TCP Code can lead to significant consequences for those breaking the rules. Telcos face penalties of up to $250,000 for failing to comply with ACMA directions to comply with the TCP Code.