Investigation reveals challenges faced by telcos when meeting needs of consumers impacted by family violence

Difficulties recognising consumers impacted by family violence, and a better understanding of what a consumer needs to feel safe are some of the challenges facing telcos when resolving phone and internet problems.

Meeting the needs of consumers impacted by family violence“, a report by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, provides the findings of a systemic investigation.

The investigation found the needs of consumers experiencing family violence were not always met by the telcos’ standard systems and processes. The report details how the unauthorised disclosure of personal information can have dangerous consequences. It also reveals the impact of how an inflexible approach to providing the right financial help can contribute to financial hardship.

Five telcos shared their experiences and insights in supplying phone and internet services to consumers impacted by family violence. One telco highlighted the difficulties when asking questions of a vulnerable customer while avoiding potentially triggering statements. Another reported the difficulties hearing from consumers who are scared for their imminent physical safety and that of their children.

On publishing the report, Ombudsman Judi Jones says her organisation is here to help both consumers and telcos. “Our understanding and approach to the impact of phone and internet complaints in family violence continues to evolve. While the number of these complaints is relatively low, the detriment suffered is often disproportionately high.

“This report makes recommendations for telcos wanting to improve their service to better meet the needs of their customers experiencing this vulnerability. I encourage providers to think deeply about changes they can make to best support consumers impacted by family violence.

“We acknowledge the good work of family violence specialists, the telco industry and consumer advocates in this space. We are all on the same journey as many organisations in improving our understanding of the impacts of family violence. We will continue to monitor and evaluate our approach as our understanding evolves.”

The report includes tips to help phone and internet consumers and telcos.

Tips for consumers include:

  1. Tell your telco if you think your safety is at risk and ask them about their privacy processes.
  2. Ask your telco for ways you can make your account more secure.
  3. Tell your telco if you are in financial hardship.

Download the consumer tip sheet.

Tips for telcos include:

  1. Work with family violence experts to develop training for staff.
  2. Allow staff to offer highly flexible payment arrangements.
  3. Review account securities and listen to consumers about what they need to stay safe.

Download the telco tip sheet.

If the phone or internet problem can’t be fixed with the telco, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, we’re here to help.

If you need support because you or someone you know is experiencing family violence call 1800 RESPECT.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.