REPORT: Telco industry has ‘failed on almost every level’ to protect and support vulnerable customers

This latest report by the Telecommunications Ombudsman (TIO) published today, Time for Change is shocking to read and makes it clear that industry self-regulation has failed on almost every level when it comes to protecting and providing support for consumers experiencing vulnerability.

“The evidence is overwhelming, the Government must introduce enforceable regulations for consumers if the telco industry is ever to improve,” said Consumer Action Acting CEO, Tania Clarke.

“When telecommunications providers are allowed to write their own rules, and regulators are given very weak enforcement tools, it creates the ideal environment for predatory selling practices, poor responses to financial hardship and poor customer outcomes, as clearly demonstrated in this report,” she said.

The TIO undertook 76 systemic investigations over 3 years and had to report misconduct to regulators on 11 occasions due to the seriousness of the non-compliance uncovered.

The report reveals cases of customers in vulnerable circumstances who have not been given information to know what they are being signed up for, widespread mis-selling, customers not being assisted when affected by family and domestic violence, and poor financial hardship responses leading to unfair disconnection practices – even after one missed payment.

“Distressing stories of customers in highly vulnerable circumstances not being assisted by their telco provider, being forced onto inflexible direct debit payments and then being disconnected at a whim, in situations where they can’t even afford food or rent, are unacceptable for an essential service,” said Consumer Action Senior Policy Officer, David Hofierka.

“The Ombudsman, financial counsellors and other organisations who assist consumers on the ground when things go wrong have long been reporting on the problems and calling for direct government regulation to ensure people are protected when they are experiencing hardship or vulnerability.

“We are calling on the Federal Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland to do this by creating laws that are fit for purpose, with serious and substantial penalties when the law is not followed, to give the regulator and the ombudsman the powers force change in telco behaviour,” he said.


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

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