The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will make an enforceable industry standard to ensure appropriate support for telecommunications customers experiencing financial hardship.
The move follows a Direction to ACMA from the Minister for Communications, which was developed following consultation with industry, consumer and regulatory stakeholders.
The ACMA will now formally commence its work with stakeholders on drafting the industry standard in line with the broad parameters set out in the Direction.
The Government’s decision to directly regulate the rules on financial hardship is in response to the increasing cost of living pressures being faced by many Australians, at a time when staying connected to a telco service is essential to everyday life.
It also follows the findings from the ACMA’s Financial hardship in the telco sector: Keeping the customer connected report, released in May 2023, which highlighted disproportionately low rates of consumers receiving formal financial hardship assistance from their telco compared to the number of Australians experiencing difficulty paying their telco bill. The findings indicated that telcos need to do more to proactively engage and assist customers in need.
While telecommunications services have not been a central contributor to the increase in cost of living pressures, the findings from the ACMA’s report, along with extensive feedback from consumer groups and advocates show that the current rules on financial hardship are not working effectively to support vulnerable consumers. This decision looks to ensure that consumers doing it tough can stay connected to essential telco services.