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Telcos under the microscope over "financial hardship" handling

Hafizah Osman | June 8, 2017
Some of Australia's largest telcos have received poor scores over how they handle customers in financial hardship.

With the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code) Code requiring providers to explain the financial implications of a post-paid service before providing it to a consumer, the financial counsellors assessed performance as 'poor' or 'very poor'. 

Optus and Telstra performed fairly similarly, with 88 per cent and 90 per cent of respondents rating them as 'poor' or 'very poor' respectively (weighted averages of 1.9 and 1.8). Vodafone was considered worse again, with 98 per cent rating them as 'poor' or 'very poor' (weighted average of 1.6).

Their understanding of contractual and billing operations also rated poorly, with 81 per cent of respondents marking it poor for Optus, 84 per cent for Telstra, and 88 per cent for Vodafone.

According to Gartlan, the findings enable providers with the opportunity to "take the lead" and work to significantly improve hardship performance, both individually and across the industry.

"Basic phone and internet services are essential for financial inclusion, particularly in times of crisis or hardship. When people in hardship are disconnected from phone services, it becomes virtually impossible to meet their other critical needs.

"The results of this survey are disappointing, showing that overall financial hardship performance in the telecommunications sector is poorer than in banking or energy retail. Our hope is that this report creates an opening for dialogue about where improvements can be made, building on the positive suggestions made by financial counsellors," he added.

The study supports the findings of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's (TIO) assessment of complaints per services in operation (SIO) in October last year, which found increasing complaints for Vodafone, amaysim, and Pivotel.

 

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