Red telephone

The Federal Government has introduced new rules for telecommunications companies designed to better support customers struggling to pay their phone and internet bills.

The new Financial Hardship Standard – developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – means telcos must take all reasonable steps to proactively identify customers who may be experiencing financial hardship, ensure they provide appropriate support, and prioritise keeping customers connected.

The Financial Hardship Standard rules will come into effect from Friday 5 April 2024.

The new standard replaces the rules on financial hardship contained in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code, and provides the ACMA with strong enforcement powers to ensure telcos are following through on their obligations.

Changes to the rules include:

  • Requirements to determine whether a customer is experiencing financial hardship, and if so, prioritising keeping them connected
  • Greater promotion of information to consumers on financial hardship assistance
  • Telcos being required to offer customers at least six different options for assistance, including payment plans

The safeguards cover goods and services provided by telcos, including mobile phones and mobile services, as well as internet and voice services used by individuals and small businesses.

With remaining connected crucial to the lives of many people, the changes will ensure that Australians – including those most vulnerable – have stronger supports in place.

The government first announced its intention to introduce the new rules last year and acknowledged the engagement of industry throughout the process of developing the new standard.

For more information about the new rules, click here.

Federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, said, “Staying connected is an essential part of everyday life in 2024. That’s why the Albanese Government is backing consumers who might be struggling to pay their internet or phone bills.

“These new rules will mean telcos have to do all they can to keep customers connected if they are experiencing financial hardship, with disconnection the last resort.

“These are practical and common-sense solutions, and is just one of the ways the Albanese Government is supporting families with cost-of-living pressures.

“The government acknowledges the work of the regulator in developing these new rules, and the constructive engagement of the telco industry through this process,” Ms Rowland said.

©2024 Utility Magazine. All rights reserved


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