The number of internet and mobile plan customers experiencing financial hardship has fallen in the past year but more must be done to alert people to available support, the communications regulator says.
A report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found 28,000 residential and more than 2000 small business customers took part in a financial hardship arrangement with their telco in the 2020/21 financial year.
The data showed a 50 per cent decline in the number of people in financial hardship, with 3.57 per 10,000 customers in June 2021 compared to a peak of 7.64 in the previous year.
But ACMA member Fiona Cameron says while the downward trend is positive, telcos must do more to support customers experiencing hardship.
Ms Cameron says this means the providers need to understand their customer’s circumstances and disconnection should be a last resort.
“Telcos must highlight the options available when contacting customers and reassure them their service will not be disconnected while they are paying off their debt,” she said.
‘Being disconnected can make a tough time even worse, with access to phone and internet essential to everyday life. When customers are given the opportunity, they can pay off their debts and remain connected.”
Mobile services made up 97 per cent of hardship arrangements with 75 per cent related to a mobile-only service and 22 per cent related to both a mobile and a fixed service.
The report also found more customers started with lower levels of debt and 63 per cent of residential customers struggling financially were able to get out of their contracts, compared to 47 per cent in 2019/20.
(Australian Associated Press)