Australian telcos to offer payment flexibility for domestic violence victims

domestic violence
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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has approved a variation to the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code which improves safeguards for victims of domestic or family violence.

A report of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended changes to the code for victims who are experiencing difficulties paying their phone or internet bills. The variation, sought by the telco industry, improves access for victims of family violence to financial hardship arrangements which may include flexible repayment options on bills.

“Telecommunications services are important for consumers generally, but are vital for consumers who have experienced family violence,” said acting ACMA chairman James Cameron. “The code now explicitly recognizes that family and domestic violence may be just causes for a consumer to seek access to financial hardship arrangements.

Cameron said the Communications Alliance has committed to develop industry guidance by the end of the year that will provide telcos with practical advice on dealing sensitively with customers affected by family violence.

“How telcos deal with the consequences of family violence is very important, so we will be monitoring the development of the guidance closely,” Cameron added.

The ACMA will also assess the progress of the industry guidance in the context of a comprehensive review of the code which will commence shortly.

The Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code provides consumer safeguards for mobile, landline and internet customers. The safeguards are set out in clear rules that telecoms providers must follow when communicating and dealing with customers. Under the rules, suppliers must have a financial hardship policy and ensure it is easy for consumers to find and access it.

In March 2016, the report of the Royal Commission into Family Violence was tabled in the Victorian Parliament. It contains the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission on a broad range of issues affecting and resulting from family violence. Recommendation 108 recommended changes to the code to improve access for victims of family violence to telcos’ financial hardship arrangements.

The revised code is available on the ACMA website.

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