New telco safeguards to protect Australians doing it tough
The Albanese Government has directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to make it mandatory for telcos to provide financial hardship assistance to all customers experiencing difficulties paying their bills, including prioritising keeping customers connected.
The new Industry Standard on Financial Hardship will help protect telco consumers struggling to pay their phone and internet bills, and also ensure staff are appropriately trained and systems are in place to proactively identify consumers who may be experiencing financial hardship.
The new rules will ensure telcos do all they can to avoid disconnecting Australians struggling with cost-of-living pressures, given how essential telecommunications are in everyday life. These safeguards will cover mobile services as well as internet and voice services used by individuals and small business.
The Standard replaces the rules on financial hardship that are currently in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code, and provide the ACMA with greater flexibility and oversight to ensure that telcos are assisting their customers struggling with their bills.
The Government announced it would direct the ACMA to make the mandatory industry standard in July last year.
The new rules will come into effect on 29 March 2024.
The Government acknowledges the constructive engagement of industry through this process. The consultation sought stakeholder views on the adequacy of the draft, various implementation considerations and transitional arrangements for the Standard’s replacement of the current financial hardship rules within the TCP Code.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland MP:
"In 2024, staying connected is an essential part of every day life. It's how Australians keep in touch with loved ones, run businesses, and engage with government.
“That’s why it is critical telcos do all they can to keep customers connected when they are experiencing difficulties paying their bills. This new industry standard will mean Australian consumers and small businesses are better supported by telcos when they need it most.
“These new rules are another example of the measured and targeted action taken by the Albanese Government to support Australians with cost-of-living pressures.
“The Government thanks the industry for working constructively with the ACMA to develop these new rules”.