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Sales practices towards asylum seekers without working visas

The complaint
Sale of post-paid plans to asylum seekers without working visas
The outcome
Sales commissions to staff returned, updated sales training through induction and refresher training.

The issue

In November 2016, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman finalised a systemic investigation into the sales and credit assessment practices of major provider Blue Phones*. We found many complaints where Blue Phones had sold post-paid products to asylum seekers without working visas and was chasing these customers for outstanding debts of up to $6,000. In the course of our community outreach, similar issues were also raised by financial counsellors and migrant support workers.

The investigation

We notified Blue Phones of the possible systemic issue, Blue Phones engaged constructively with our investigation

The outcome

As part of the systemic outcome, Blue Phones implemented a number of actions, including:

  • Using learnings from the systemic investigation, it refreshed auditing standards for sales dealerships. Where audited contracts were found to be noncompliant (including links to vulnerability or disadvantage), Blue Phones could take back any commission paid to staff.
  • Introduced training and communications to sales staff on credit and contract compliance requirements, reiterating adherence to Blue Phones’ credit policy and the impacts if it is not followed.
  • Updated sales training through induction and refresher training, including a focus on ethical selling. Core components were managing recognition of and sales to customers who may have the characteristics of vulnerability and disadvantage.

After the closure of the systemic investigation there was a decline in complaints about Blue Phones providing post-paid plans to disadvantaged individuals who could not afford them.

*Name of individuals, organisations and companies have been changed

How we've helped other customers

Telco E sells technical support to customers who do not understand or need it
Telco E retrained its staff about the service. It also gave customers who were signed up to the service the option to cancel without a cancellation fee
Telco C credits customers who received high bills after using a ‘pre-paid’ service
We worked with Telco C to help it improve the information it gave customers about possible data charges