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New TIO report shows telcos still need to do more to help customers in financial hardship

A new report from the independent body handling complaints about telcos, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO), adds yet more weight to calls from financial counsellors for the industry to lift its game.

The TIO has released its latest systemic investigation, called “Responding to consumers in financial hardship”.

The report highlights the barriers and problems consumers face when accessing support from their telco.

A telling example is that some consumers were only able to get help from their telco after intervention from the TIO or a financial counsellor.

Another key problem highlighted in the report is a lack of accessible, proactive and timely hardship assistance. The report found repeated instances of long hold times, slow responses for online chat and providers not calling or emailing back.

These findings reinforce those in Financial Counselling Australia’s (FCA) survey of financial counsellors, released in April 2021.

Financial counsellors said that:

  • Overall, telco hardship practices are poor
  • Clients were often offered unaffordable hardship arrangements
  • Some were not offered hardship arrangements at all
  • Some had payment plans rejected

“Financial counsellors see the harm caused to so many people by poor telco practices. We’ve been telling the telco industry about some of their poor practices for a long time. Whether it is inadequate hardship responses or mis-selling, it’s time for it to stop,” said the CEO of FCA, Fiona Guthrie.

This latest report is just another example of a host of similar reports, publications and even legal action because the telco industry is not meeting community expectations. Click here to view the collated list.

“Seriously, how much more evidence do the telcos need to change their approach to financial hardship assistance?” said Ms Guthrie.

Financial counsellors assist people experiencing financial difficulty. They provide information and advice to help people tackle their financial problems and to minimise the risk of issues occurring in the future. Financial counselling services are free, confidential and independent.

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