Help at hand for telco consumers unable to pay bills
As the COVID-19 lockdown intensifies, robbing people of their right to physical connection, there has never been a more important time for individuals to keep in touch via telecommunications.
But for some of the hardest-hit Australians that have lost their income this week, due to social distancing regulation, there are fears that even digital connection may soon be out of bounds.
Many of the 1 million that have been made redundant due to lockdown measures are unable to pay telco bills, with food and medical expenses understandably taking precedence for those in severe financial distress.
However, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is reminding consumers that help is at hand, and that telcos have various financial hardship programs for those unable to meet payment obligations.
“Telecommunication services are playing a critical role in keeping Australians connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers need to know that help is available to keep you connected, especially if you are facing financial hardship,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.
The ACMA highlighted that telco and other essential service providers (like gas and electricity) are no stranger to providing financial relief, and that most companies are well placed to provide timely support.
According to ACMA’s recent State of Play report, 36,500 consumers entered into a financial hardship arrangement with their essential service provider in the 2018–19 financial year, with around 10,000 remaining on the program in the following year. This equates to a total debt of $5.71 million, more than three-quarters of which was for mobile phone services.
“Our message is that, if you are having trouble paying your bills, get in contact with your telco service provider today,” O’Loughlin concluded.
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