An innovative guide to assist telcos and internet service providers help consumers in financial hardship has been released today.
Responding to Customers in Financial Hardship, Principles and Practices for Telecommunications Service Providers provides clear principles and proven practices that telecommunications and internet service providers and consumer representatives may use when dealing with consumers in financial hardship. The purpose of the document is to enable customers who are in financial hardship to stay connected to essential services while assisting them to meet their financial obligations.
The guide has been developed by a working group including telecommunications industry and financial counselling representatives, with the assistance of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
"The document is designed to help all stakeholders better appreciate the tools and practices they can draw on to create positive, sustainable outcomes for telco customers who are in tough financial situations," said Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton.
The document outlines six critical principles that underpin an effective response to customers in financial hardship: accountability, accessibility, fairness, flexibility, mutuality and proportionality. It builds on rules already included in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code 2012. Included in the document are examples of good practice in areas such as identifying and assessing customers in financial hardship, making prompt and informed decisions and promoting a whole of organisation effort to respond effectively and compassionately to the circumstances of customers in financial hardship.
"The principles and practices document is a major leap forward, setting out examples of best practice," said Financial Counselling Australia Executive Director Fiona Guthrie. "It changes the conversation between telcos and customers in financial hardship for the better."
The Australian Communications and Media Authority reported in 2012 that 14 per cent of customers had experienced difficulty in paying their telecommunications bill in the previous year. Telecommunications companies are being encouraged to closely review the document, and make changes to better assist these and other consumers in financial hardship.
"The document includes a toolbox of useful ideas for every telco to consider," said Simon Cohen, Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. "We have signed on to convene another industry forum in 2015 to review the impact of this initiative."
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Financial Counselling Australia
0402 426 835
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
TIO Communications Manager
(03) 8680 8378