Relief for telco customers in financial hardship welcomed – but much more needs to be done 

Consumer Action’s CEO Stephanie Tonkin says new telco supports flagged by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are a significant step in the right direction, but further work must be done to ensure all vulnerable customers, including those affected by domestic and family violence (DFV), are adequately protected.

“People experiencing hardship must not be cut off from essential telco services…” Ms Tonkin said. “They need to be able to easily access this vital support for their livelihoods and safety.”

The Financial Hardship Standard, set to commence on 29 March 2024, will include additional measures to assist customers experiencing financial hardship.

These measures include:

  • Requiring telcos to proactively reach out to offer payment assistance to people showing signs that they are experiencing financial hardship, including if they are more than $200 behind on their bill or have more than 2 bills overdue

  • The requirement to offer customers experiencing financial hardship a payment extension and a suitable payment plan

  • Ensuring that any support or payment plan offered is affordable for the customer and tailored to a customer’s individual circumstances and based on their ability to pay back their bill or debt

  • Not requiring supporting evidence from customers requesting hardship or payment assistance for less than 3 billing cycles, for debts less than $1,000 or from those affected by DFV.

Ms Tonkin said the Financial Hardship Standard is timely and telco customers will soon be able to benefit from greater support when they fall upon tough times. She also noted there is room for improvement.

“Restrictions should not be used as a hardship option, except as a very last resort. Restricting service after just a matter of days or weeks contradicts the essential nature of telephone and internet connection for safety and employment.

“The current cost of living crisis is hitting many people very hard, and we thank the Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, and the ACMA for getting this done, which will hopefully give people who are struggling more options and relief with their telco bills, when needed,” she said.

The action taken by the Federal Government is an important shift away from industry self-regulation toward directly enforceable regulation, to strengthen consumers protections and to ensure people remain connected to their essential services. To address the remaining gaps, consumer advocates in community organisations are of the view that similar action is also required to disincentivise telcos from engaging in predatory and misleading sales practices, from forcing vulnerable people onto direct debits, and to prevent customers from being exploited by perpetrators of DFV or financial abuse.

“People experiencing family violence should not be at risk of having credit management action taken against them or from having telco debts – signed up under their name by violent perpetrators – being sold to a debt collector. We need strong laws to prevent this,” Ms Tonkin said.

“Although we support the Financial Hardship Standard and acknowledge recent attempts to introduce some DFV provisions in the voluntary Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (TCP Code), we will continue working with others, including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), to push for separate mandatory laws that take DFV seriously and stop people from falling into financial hardship because of these kinds of situations in the first place.”

A link to the Financial Hardship Standard can be found here:


Media contact: Mark Pearce, Media and Communications Adviser, 0413 299 567,

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