The Footscray Legal Community Centre (FCLC) together with ACCAN has released a report entitiled Taking Advantage of Disadvantage: Case studies of refugee and new migrant experiences in the communications market, finding that in many cases telcos are taking advantage of this already disadvantaged and highly vulnerable group.

The report, Taking Advantage of Disadvantage: Case studies of refugee and new migrant experiences in the communications market, details cases where Burmese and African migrants, who do not speak English well and are illiterate, were signed up in store or by doorknockers to expensive phone and internet plans they do not understand and cannot afford to pay. In most cases, the customer defaulted or ran up an enormous bill because they did not understand their contract and words like “cap”, where a cap is a minimum, rather than a maximum spend and were confused by the large dollar amounts of calls included in advertising without exclusions properly explained. The report found that:

  • ‘Capped plans’ and complex bundles of products are needlessly confusing and create significant difficulties for refugee and migrant consumers. 
  • There are often limited considerations of the language and cultural barriers facing refugee and migrant consumers, including the need for interpreting services and use of Authorised Agents or Advocates.
  • Poor sales and customer service practices can result in increased hardship and opportunity cost of lost time for refugee and migrant consumers.
  • There is limited awareness of financial management tools such as data usage monitoring among refugee and migrant consumers, and even when in use these tools do not appear to be helping consumers manage their spend.
  • The majority of the consumers mentioned in the cases had little or no knowledge of the TIO and the service they provide prior to coming to FCLC for assistance.
  • On a broad level, the majority of the cases presented show a poor level of informed consent given by refugee and migrant consumers when entering into agreements with service providers.

A number of complementary solutions to the issues presented in the case studies must be investigated. It is important to note that it is in the best interests of all parties, including service providers, to improve the experience of refugee, new migrant and other vulnerable consumers in the communications market.

Taking Advantage of Disadvantage Report.pdf

Taking Advantage of Disadvantage Report.doc