Telcos: keeping financial hardship customers connected

At a time when the cost of living has gone through the roof, you may take some comfort in knowing about a new industry standard that was introduced on 29 March 2024 to very little fanfare. 

Telcos like Telstra and Optus are now required to do more for customers experiencing difficulty paying their mobile or home internet bills. And given we rely so heavily on devices to keep us connected, it couldn’t come at a better time. 

Given so much of our lives are reliant on these devices, to keep us connected with each other, it’s a welcome change – even if these new industry standards were announced without much fanfare at the end of March.

What’s considered financial hardship?

Simply put, financial hardship is when you’re having trouble meeting your financial obligations on time. It can include paying bills, making mortgage repayments, covering rent or paying off debts. 

For some people, a change in circumstances such as the death of a partner or losing a job can lead to financial hardship almost overnight. 

Whatever the reason, making an arrangement may buy you a bit of time and give you some breathing space to get your finances in order.  

A report into financial hardship released in May 2023 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), showed 2.4 million Aussie adults experienced financial difficulty or had concerns relating to their bill in the previous 12 months. 

The report also showed that as of June 2022, only 4388 residential customers had financial hardship arrangements with their telco.

The new rules came about to give more options to telco customers experiencing financial difficulties. Telcos are also required to be on the front foot in identifying customers at risk. 

Financial hardship policies 

As part of the new Telecommunications (Financial Hardship) Industry Standard 2024, Telcos must establish and promote clearly accessible financial hardship policies.

This means the government requires the likes of Optus, Telstra and TPG to do more to proactively identify customers experiencing financial hardship and prioritise keeping their services connected. 

Telcos must also now offer a minimum of six different options for assistance, including payment plans, extending or deferring payments, as well as providing stronger protection for customers facing credit management action before disconnecting them, and extending the disconnection notice period to 10 working days.

But while there is more protection for customers experiencing difficulties in paying mobile and home internet bills, that doesn’t mean telcos won’t resort to disconnecting customers. 

If you’re finding it tough to pay your bill, the first step is to contact your telco and find out your options. But if they’re really not helping then there’s always the option, as a last resort, to complain to the telecommunications industry ombudsman.

Have you experienced issues paying your phone bill? Will these new laws help you? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Telstra hit with millions in fines for charging customers for no service


  1. My landline has been out of action since end-Feb. I logged a fault online and a Telstra tech turned up (surprisingly because we’re semi-rural) and said it wouldn’t be fixed because it’s on old copper cable. We’ll be moved on the new system shortly. Spoke to another tech 4 weeks later to ask when it would happen and he said someone would be out to check the property for suitability. Still hasn’t happened so I called billing to say I wouldn’t be paying the bill until it’s fixed since I’m not getting a service. Was told no fault has been logged and I’m to keep paying. What a farce.

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