Telcos are not doing enough to provide access to adequate hardship measures for those doing it tough in what is now the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation, says David Hofierka, Senior Policy Officer, Consumer Action.
Mr Hofierka was commenting on a survey report of 1000 consumers released yesterday by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). The report has revealed in the last two years, one in five consumers reported missing a payment for a phone or internet payment and 24 per cent borrowed from family or friends to pay a telco bill.
14 per cent of respondents used a high-cost payday loan and 16 per cent used wage advance products offered by predatory lenders, to pay for a telco products or services.
“Telecommunications are an essential service, indispensable for work, education, health, and social connection. ACCAN’s report shows how essential being connected is to consumers – 21 per cent of respondents reported that they went without food or medicine to pay their telco bill to stay connected.
“Just as concerning is that one in ten respondents said they were contacted by a debt collector about a phone or internet debt, adding to their financial distress.
“This report clearly shows that telco hardships measures are not working, and people are being forced to take desperate measures to keep connected,” Mr Hofierka said.
Consumer Action financial counsellors are tired of regularly hearing from callers to the National Debt Helpline who have been disconnected from their telco service without being offered financial assistance and support when they need it most.
“It is time the Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland took steps to ensure telcos are required by law to provide hardship support and to introduce safeguards that are consistent with other essential services, like electricity, gas, and water, Mr Hofierka said.
“Australian telcos can and must do better and we clearly need the Government to introduce laws to make this happen.”
Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser, 0413 299 567, email@example.com