Drawing on the grassroots professional experiences of financial counsellors as well as focus group interviews with consumers, this report outlines how the telecommunications industry's hardship policies and practices compare with those of the banking, energy and water industries.
In 2012, Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) received a grant from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network to conduct research comparing hardship practices in the banking, energy, water and telecommunications sectors.
The purpose of this research was two-fold. First, as a broad analysis, we wanted to find out from financial counsellors and other stakeholders what systems and processes were most effective – ‘what works’ – when it comes to assisting customers experiencing financial hardship. This topic is particularly relevant to FCA and to financial counsellors. Financial counsellors assist people in financial difficulty and have first-hand experience when it comes to hardship programs in the banks, utilities and telcos (see box for a more detailed explanation of the role of a financial counsellor). By documenting good practices in place for assisting consumers experiencing hardship, we can share this information with our colleagues in industry, the community sector, external dispute resolution (EDR) schemes, regulators and government who can apply it in their own sectors.
The second purpose of the research was to apply the broad findings about ‘what works’ to the telecommunications industry. In recent years, financial counsellors have worked closely with the banking industry to review hardship policies and practices, resulting in a number of changes. The financial counselling sector is now engaged in a similar dialogue with the telecommunications industry and this research will inform those discussions.