Financial counsellors are learning about the telecommunications industry code and the rights and obligations of consumers thanks to training run by the TIO.
We joined the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria for a codes training day for financial counsellors in April. The session was aimed at giving financial counsellors an overview of the banking, insurance, energy, water and telecommunications industry codes.
We also hosted an “Unlocking the Codes” session for financial counsellors at this year’s External Dispute Resolution Conference in Sydney in May. These events gave us the chance to talk to financial counsellors about the TIO, how we use industry codes and what the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code says about financial hardship.
TCP Code and financial hardship
The updated TCP Code, which came into effect in September 2012, has some new requirements for providers when dealing with consumers in financial hardship. According to the new code, a provider must:
- contact a customer who has broken a payment plan before trying to collect a debt or default list them
- respond to a consumer’s request for financial hardship assistance within seven working days, and
- tell a consumer about their financial hardship policy when it is apparent to them that the consumer may need assistance, not only when the consumer requests it.
Rules carried over from the previous code still apply and require providers to:
- have a financial hardship policy that is easy for consumers to access
- offer flexible payment options and review payment plans if the consumer’s circumstances change, and
- not collect debts while a payment plan is in place or being discussed.