The stories in this report have come from callers to our legal advice lines and the National Debt Helpline and are accompanied by our own data and that of the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC), which has been conducting an in-depth survey of COVID-19’s effect on people’s household finances. These figures and the experiences of the people who call us are indicative of systemic problems with the telco sector as it is currently regulated.
This report shines a light on the conduct we have seen from telcos throughout 2020, while the industry continues to operate under a scheme of self-regulation. The telco industry response to financial hardship during the pandemic was inadequate. We have seen telcos raise barriers rather than offer reasonable and appropriate payment arrangements to those who have needed it this year.
The evidence in this report shows the need for better, modernised regulation of the telco sector to adequately protect people. Without directly enforceable rules developed by the independent regulator, people are being left with unaffordable debt, poor or no financial hardship responses, the stress of unprofessional dispute resolution and disconnections.
During the COVID-19 emergency, it is clear that this lack of connectedness just won’t do—it denies people access to family, medical care, education, work and government services.
We have highlighted telco systemic issues previously in our report ‘Consumer Issues Impacting Victorian Aboriginal Communities’ in February 2020, and in submissions to the Department of Communications, the industry peak body (Communications Alliance), the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) and in our continuing advocacy work.
Systemic issues in the telco sector have been exacerbated in 2020 by the increased reliance on telecommunications for work and school and keeping in touch with family necessary during the COVID-19 emergency.201120 - Covid Telco Report_V8