TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Summary of assistance

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





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. 

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