ACCAN recently submitted to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) consultation on the Proposed Telecommunications Financial Hardship Industry Standard (the draft standard).

ACCAN considers that the development of the financial hardship standard is a critical improvement in consumer protections for telecommunications consumers. ACCAN acknowledges and welcomes the actions by the Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland and the ACMA to progress the development of these protections.

ACCAN is supportive of the contents of the draft standard. We are pleased to see that it:

  • Expands the definition of financial hardship, ensuring that more consumers can access the help that they need to pay their bills.
  • Makes it easier for consumers to find and access financial hardship policies online.
  • Requires telecommunications providers to take all reasonable steps necessary to identify customers in financial hardship as early as possible.
  • Requires providers to take into account the needs of the customer when setting up a financial assistance plan.
  • Requires that financial hardship policies state that disconnection will only be used as a measure of last resort.

ACCAN considers that the draft standard can be strengthened by:

  • Prohibiting or further limiting credit action, disconnection, suspension, or restriction against a customer while the customer is discussing options or has made an application for financial hardship assistance with the provider, or who would reasonably appear to be in financial hardship based on the information the provider has available.
  • Ensuring that during the assessment period for a customer’s financial hardship assistance application they cannot be disconnected from their telecommunications service.
  • Expanding protections and options available for customers in financial hardship or other vulnerable circumstances, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers, culturally and linguistic and diverse customers, customers with disabilities, and customers who are at risk of or experiencing domestic and family violence.
  • Allowing for carriage service providers to assist in addressing financial hardship through the severance or reallocation of debts where financial hardship may be a consequence of economic abuse.
  • Further protections to prevent customers in financial hardship or in other vulnerable circumstances from accumulating and having credit action taken against them for debts that they cannot afford to pay, including the option to be placed onto longer-term payment plans, the right to be informed and moved to a more affordable plan (including suitable post-paid options) and strengthening requirements for providers to identify and contact customers in financial hardship.
  • Ensuring that customers experiencing financial hardship, risks to their health, safety, or other vulnerable circumstances, should only have their services restricted to the extent that they can still maintain access to basic calls to mobiles and landlines and data usage.

Download:  docxConsultation on the Proposed Financial Hardship Industry Standard4.88 MB

Download:  pdfConsultation on the Proposed Financial Hardship Industry Standard191.15 KB

Download:  docxComments on the Proposed Financial Hardship Standard185.37 KB

Download:  pdfComments on the Proposed Financial Hardship Standard504.81 KB