A guide designed to assist the telecommunications industry and ISPs has been released by a group which includes the industry ombudsman.
The guide was developed by a working group comprised of telecommunications industry and financial consulting representatives, with assistance from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Communications Alliance chief executive, John Stanton, said the document is designed to help all parties better appreciate the tools and practices they can draw on to create positive, sustainable outcomes for customers in tough financial situations.
The guide outlines six critical principles that underpin an effective response to customers in financial hardship. They are accountability, accessibility, fairness, flexibility, mutuality and proportionality.
The document builds on rules already included in the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code 2012. It includes examples of good practice in identifying and assessing customers in financial hardship, making prompt and informed decisions and promoting an effort across organisations to respond effectively and compassionately to the circumstances of customers in financial hardship.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Simon Cohen, said the guide includes a toolbox of useful ideas for every telco to consider.
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"We have signed on to convene another industry forum in 2015 to review the impact of this initiative."
Financial Counselling Australia executive director, Fiona Guthrie, said the document is a major leap forward in setting examples of best practice.
"It changes the conversation between telcos and customers in financial hardship for the better."
In 2012, The Australian Communications and Media Authority reported that 14 per cent of customers had experienced difficulty in paying their telecommunications bill the previous year. Telcos are encouraged to closely review the document, and make changes to better assist these and other consumers in financial hardship.