Phone or internet complaints impacted by family violence | The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
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Phone or internet complaints impacted by family violence

This guide tells you what remedies may be available if you are experiencing family violence and have phone or internet problems related to financial hardship and economic abuse, privacy or safety issues, or technology facilitated abuse.

Our staff are not family violence specialists and do not provide counselling services. However, we are able to help consumers resolve urgent complaints and complaints where unauthorised access to or disclosure of personal information that may pose threats to safety or privacy. We recognise that in some of these cases, family violence may be the cause or a compounding factor. Our guidance and resources are designed to support consumers who have a telco complaint and are experiencing family violence.

Types of complaints impacted by family violence

This guidance note tells you what remedies may be available if you are experiencing family violence and have phone or internet problems related to:

  • financial hardship and economic abuse
  • privacy or safety issues
  • technology facilitated abuse.

It does not deal with other specialist assistance you may need when experiencing family violence. If you need specialist assistance, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for support and referrals.

The problem

We recognise that family violence has many different impacts. Some of the impacts we see in complaints we handle include:

  • Financial: having trouble paying your telco bills, being responsible for a family violence perpetrator’s debt
  • Compromised privacy or safety: a perpetrator accessing your telco account without your consent, your provider disclosing your contact details without your consent, being unable to contact people for help or support after having your phone or internet cut off
  • Abuse via technology: unwanted contact from a perpetrator, difficulty accessing your telco records for evidence purposes.

Providers are required to offer you financial hardship help when you are experiencing family violence. Providers also have obligations to maintain your account security and to not disclose your personal information without your consent.

Several providers also have specific policies about how the provider handles family violence complaints. You can ask your provider if they have a family violence policy, or you can search the provider’s website to see if it has a family violence policy.

Financial hardship

The telco industry recognises family violence as a situation that may cause financial hardship. If you do not want to tell your provider you are experiencing family violence, you could also tell your provider you are experiencing financial hardship or are concerned for your safety.

The options your provider offers will depend on your individual circumstances. Options could include:

  • putting spend controls on your account
  • making a payment arrangement
  • moving you onto a lower cost plan or prepaid option
  • reducing or waiving fees (for example, cancellation fees)
  • disconnecting or blocking services under your name being used by a perpetrator.

If your situation has led to a default listing being recorded, please see this guidance note for more information.

Privacy and safety

Your provider has obligations to keep your account safe and secure. Your provider also has obligations to make sure they do not disclose your personal information without your consent. There may also be things your provider can do to keep you connected if your safety has been compromised.

The options your provider offers will depend on your individual circumstances. Options could include:

  • correcting your account and contact information
  • changing the process for accessing your account (for example, adding a password or PIN)
  • removing your contact information from the White Pages
  • activating call number display blocking
  • offering you a new account, phone number, or email address
  • offering you a silent phone number
  • offering to release you from your contract without charge
  • providing you with an interim service until your service problem is fixed
  • paying compensation for breaching your privacy, such as for:
    • humiliation or injury to feelings
    • relocation costs
  • making a formal apology.

Abuse via technology

There are processes your provider can follow to help stop unwanted or life-threatening calls or text messages.

In some situations where you want to stop technology facilitated abuse or obtain evidence of abuse, the police may be better able to assist you. While your provider can give you access to your bill and usage records, there may be limits on what other information they can give you.

The options your provider offers will depend on your individual circumstances. Options could include:

  • offering a new silent phone number
  • providing advice about:
    • how you can block a perpetrator’s communications
    • how to stop a perpetrator monitoring your communications
  • giving you information about bills and call and text message records where it is consistent with your provider’s privacy obligations
  • in very limited circumstances, disconnecting or requesting the disconnection of a perpetrator’s services
This page was last updated on
07th Sep 2021