Today the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC) released a report on the way telecommunications companies deal with customers in financial difficulty.

We are disappointed that the report (a survey of financial counsellors) found that financial counsellors ranked the telco industry relatively low in assisting customers in financial hardship against other industries, and ranked Telstra second of the top three providers.

Telstra has a proud history of providing the largest and most extensive offerings in the industry for low income, vulnerable and disadvantaged customers – this equates to more than $2bn in value since 2002.

It is also disappointing to see the report’s statements claim that the telco industry as a whole was more driven by sales than by customer care.

This is certainly not our objective at Telstra, but we acknowledge there are times when we may not get this right and we will continue to work with your teams to ensure they provide the best possible services to customers with financial difficulties.

At Telstra, aggressive sales behaviour is not acceptable. Our focus is on listening to our customers to understand what their needs are, and providing solutions to meet those needs.

And while we do have a range of sales incentives, we also have strong incentives based on the customer experience – not just instore, but whenever our customers need our help.

Our message to our customers is this – we are here to support you, in good times and in bad. If you ever feel like you need some extra time to pay your bill, or not sure if you are eligible for a discount, please call us on 13 22 00.

We know that connection to phone and internet services is vital for all of our customers, especially when they are facing hardship, that’s why we have such an extensive range of assistance programs in place to keep our customers connected.

We will continue to work to improve our services, policies and programs for low income, vulnerable and disadvantaged customers – and we will continue to do this by working with financial counsellors and industry groups to find solutions together.

Telstra’s programs to assist customers facing financial hardship include:

  • Our Access for Everyone programs are designed to assist people on a low income, or facing financial hardship, to maintain access to telecommunications. These include a range of measures to improve affordability of telecommunications including improved billing and pricing options and the Pensioner Discount Scheme.
  • We have a Specialised Assistance Team who help customers who are experiencing financial hardship. When a customer enters into the program, there is no set timeframe of how long a customer can stay in the program.
  • We also have a direct, dedicated hotline for financial counsellors to access our specialist assistance team and have a strong track record of keeping our customers connected to their essential services.
  • Our CEO meets twice a year with representatives from key consumer groups, including Financial Counselling Australia, and we also hold a Financial Hardship Forum every six months with financial counsellors to ensure we understand what is happening in the community and to allow for Telstra to receive any feedback for areas of opportunity.