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Telecommunications Financial Hardship Industry Standard

We have made new industry rules  to improve protections for telecommunications customers experiencing financial hardship.

Why we need these protections

Large numbers of telco customers have had difficulty or concern paying their bill, as shown in recent ACMA research and reports.

Only a small fraction of customers receive formal hardship support. Where customers accessed financial hardship support, arrangements were not flexible or adequately tailored to individual circumstances. 

Industry data during the 2022 financial year also indicated that 237,166 residential customers had services disconnected due to non-payment of their bills. The current cost-of-living crisis has highlighted that consumers experiencing financial stress and hardship need adequate and appropriate support. 

It is important that customers in financial hardship can stay connected to telco services, which are essential for day-to-day living. They should also be able to keep access to the equipment needed to use those services. 

How the standard works

The new standard helps customers stay connected to telco services by placing obligations on telcos to:

  • make and promote accessible policies and processes to assist customers in financial hardship 
  • make information and advice available to customers about these policies, and options for assistance
  • proactively identify customers who may be experiencing financial hardship
  • have appropriate customer service, staff training and means of identifying and supporting customers in financial difficulty 
  • follow rules for assessing and providing financial assistance to customers. This includes making a minimum of 6 options for assistance available and ensuring that assistance is realistic, appropriate and tailored to the customer
  • meet requirements for credit management action. This includes taking reasonable steps to keep the customer’s service connected, and not selling a debt where the customer has an active financial hardship arrangement or is engaged with the telco on financial hardship. 

The new rules start on 29 March 2024 and apply to telcos in their dealings with residential, small business and not-for-profit customers.

What to do if you need help

Financial pressures can impact anyone at any time, and for many reasons. This includes:

  • loss of income
  • illness
  • family or domestic violence
  • natural disasters
  • increased cost-of-living pressures. 

If you can’t pay your phone or internet bill on time, you should tell your telco as soon as possible. They can assist you in meeting your payment obligations and help keep you connected.

Check your telco's financial hardship or payment assistance policy on their website, or contact them for details.

Find out more about getting help from your telco if you can't pay your phone or internet bill. We also have information on what you can do if your service is disconnected

For free financial counselling or urgent help, go to the Moneysmart website.

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