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Pro bono legal service MOSAIC and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) are teaming up to run a 'Bring Your Bills Day' giving free legal advice and education to newly arrived migrants, refugees or asylum seekers who need help with any of their bills (phone, electricity, gas or water). The event is in the lead up to Anti-Poverty Week (12th–18th October, 2014). It is being held today at the Old University of Sydney Law Building (near St James train station, Macquarie Street exit), 173-175 Phillip Street, Sydney CBD.

Recent analysis by MOSAIC has found that one in seven of their clients is facing difficulties with paying mobile phone bills. According to the Australian Council of Social Services adults born in countries where English is not the main language are almost 50 per cent more likely to be in poverty compared to those born in Australia.

 Access to communications is increasingly an essential service, without which people are disconnected from friends, family and job opportunities. People experiencing financial hardship are almost twice as likely to go without things like home internet because they cannot afford it.

Other consumers run into trouble when signed on to contracts they don't understand. "The jargon used in telco offers is hard enough to decipher for native English speakers, so unfortunately it's not surprising some new migrants are struggling" said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

Affordability is a major issue for new migrants. "Many of these clients are unable to pay off their bills because they are on visas which prevent them from working or they are working in precarious jobs" said MOSAIC Manager Liz Simpson.

"Pro bono lawyers have to act as triage to help clients repair debts. We'd like to see telcos take greater responsibility in sales practices. It is not a good look when we see a client on a short-term visa, with limited income and poor English signed onto an expensive, long-term post-paid phone contract" said Ms. Simpson.

Background: MOSAIC is a pro bono legal organisation that provides migrant outreach services. Through an ACCAN grant it will document the experience of migrants who have difficulties paying mobile phone bills. The project will follow their journey through seeking legal advice, negotiating with telecommunications providers and complaint handling. MOSAIC will also provide education and training to a group of new migrants, who will then be mentored to create relevant and accurate information videos in various languages for other consumers.

ACCAN has a range of tip sheets for consumers about what to do if they receive an unexpectedly high bill, can't afford to pay their bill, or want to avoid expensive global roaming charges. Visit www.accan.org.au/tipsheets

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Media contact: Luke Sutton, 0409 966 931 / 02 9288 4017 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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