TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Summary of assistance

Telstra


Summary of assistance offered:

  • Extra data is available for both internet (now unlimited until 30 June 2020) and postpaid mobile plans (need to register)
  • No late fees charged until 30 June 2020
  • Unlimited national calls for pensioners on their home phone plan. This is provided automatically
  • JobSeeker discount of $20 per month for six months. People need to apply.
  • There is a bill assistance hub available which can assist by:
    • Suspending any or all services, and reconnecting the customer free of charge when they are ready to do so
    • Downsizing plans if customers can no longer afford the plan they are on
    • Making agreed payment plans
    • Entering into an agreement to pay at a later agreed date.

Resources:

Telstra: Supporting you during COVID-19




Optus


Summary of assistance offered:

  • Until 30 April 2020, customers can request that their postpaid mobile service plan charges go on hold for 90 days, which will suspend the service (repayments for devices and other extras will continue to be charged)
  • No late payment fees until 30 April 2020
  • No disconnection and no debt collection activities until 30 April 2020
  • People specifically receiving Government coronavirus financial support should message on the MY Optus App.

Resource:

Optus: Coronavirus COVID-19 updates




Vodafone


Summary of assistance offered:

  • A $10 Stay Connected Cap Plan for customers experiencing financial difficulty due to COVID-19. The plan has 3GB of mobile data and unlimited national voice calls/SMS. The plan is available for three months from 20 April 2020. It may be extended.
  • No late payment fees. No suspension of services or debt collection until 30 April 2020. Customers will still receive payment reminders.
  • Extra data for postpaid and prepaid customers and no data usage charges for accessing essential websites.

Resources:

Vodafone support for our customers during COVID-19





For other telecommunications providers check their website.

What do the changes mean?

  • Extra assistance is available on top of the usual financial hardship assistance

  • There will definitely be delays and difficulty in contacting telecommunications providers

TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY

OMBUDSMAN

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman

Timeframes


The timeframe for phone and internet providers to respond to non-urgent complaints has been extended to 15 days.




Vulnerable customers


The timeframe to respond to urgent complaints from vulnerable and at-risk residential consumers is still two business days. Vulnerable and at-risk residential consumers can call 1800 046 686 or 03 8600 8308 for assistance with unresolved phone and internet complaints.

Vulnerable customers are identified as:

  • Having a serious medical condition or a registered priority assistance service
  • Not having an ongoing mobile or internet poses a specific safety risk
  • Needing urgent financial hardship support from their provider




When to consider going to the TIO


  • Your client is vulnerable as outlined above and the issue has not been resolved within two days
  • Disconnection is threatened and the service is vital
  • The financial hardship being offered is still unaffordable
  • The financial hardship request or dispute is not resolved after 15 days





What do you do differently?
  • Know what additional assistance is available and do mention the Joint Statement
  • Make sure the provider knows if your client has been financially affected by the pandemic and as a result are receiving government assistance (JobSeeker or JobKeeper)

  • The priority is to negotiate an affordable repayment arrangement quickly. If your client is keeping to the terms of the arrangement, collection activity must stop. The Joint Statement confirms this but it is arguable that a repayment arrangement always varies the contract and stops enforcement

  • Clients should not be deferring debts. Otherwise they will continue to mount up

  • Negotiate around cancellation fees for postpaid plans if moving to prepaid helps the client better manage costs in the medium term

  • When negotiating, consider the following:

    • Reducing the cost of the plan (if possible) for postpaid. This may mean switching plans

    • Consider cancelling a postpaid plan and moving the client to a prepaid plan. This may need negotiation around cancellation fees and phone costs

    • Confirm that no late fees or collection fees will be charged

    • Confirm that debt collection will stop and the debt will not move to an external debt collection agency

    • Make sure payments are affordable on current income

    • Consider the costs of children’s phones and changing those plans as well.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is for financial counsellors only. It is general information only. Financial counsellors must still tailor advice to their client’s individual circumstances. 

Copyright © 2020 Financial Counselling Australia. All rights reserved.​

FCA sincerely thanks Kat Lane. Liz Minter and Melinda Rene for their outstanding work in putting this site together.