Telcos: keeping financial hardship customers connected

Fact Checked
Updated 14/04/2024
Telcos: keeping financial hardship customers connected

Time to read : 2 Minutes

Telcos like Telstra and Optus are now legally required to give more support for customers experiencing difficulties in paying mobile or home internet bills.

Given so much of our life is reliant on these devices, and keeps us connected with each other, it's a welcome change – even if these new industry standards were announced without much fanfare at the end of March. Here's what you need to know.

What’s considered financial hardship?

Simply put, financial hardship is when you’re having trouble meeting your financial obligations on time. It can include paying bills, making mortgage repayments, covering rent or paying off debts. 

For some people, a change in circumstances such as the death of a partner or losing a job can lead to financial hardship almost overnight.

Whatever the reason, making an arrangement may buy you a bit of time and give you some breathing space to get your finances in order.  

A report into financial hardship released in May 2023 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), showed 2.4 million Aussie adults experienced financial difficulty or had concerns relating to their bill in the previous 12 months. 

Yes, but... the the report also showed that as of June 2022, only 4,388 residential customers had financial hardship arrangements with their telco.

The new rules came about to give more options to Telco customers experiencing financial difficulties. Telcos are also required to be on the front foot in identifying customers at risk. 

Key takeaways of the new Industry Standard on financial hardship

As part of the new Telecommunications (Financial Hardship) Industry Standard 2024, Telcos must: 

  • Establish and promote clearly accessible financial hardship policies.

  • Do more to proactively identify customers experiencing financial hardship and prioritise keeping their services connected.

  • Offer a minimum of six different options for assistance, including payment plans, extending or deferring payments.

  • Provide stronger protections for customers facing credit management action before disconnecting them, as well as extending the disconnection notice period to 10 working days.

Bottom line

While there is more protection for customers experiencing difficulties in paying mobile and home internet bills, that doesn’t mean Telcos won’t resort to disconnecting customers. 

If you're finding it tough to pay your bill, contact your Telco and find out your options. It’s your best bet to stay connected.

Go deeper:

The ACCC puts broadband providers on notice