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TIO warns of hardship spike after NBN financial assistance winds up

TIO warns of hardship spike after NBN financial assistance winds up

More consumers are expected to experience hardship in paying their National Broadband Network (NBN) bills as Australia’s telcos look to eventually turn off the tap for financial support, a Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) representative told a Senate committee on Friday.

Standing before the Joint Standing Committee on the National Broadband Network on Friday, TIO Judi Jones said the financial support given by government and industry had stalled any potential uptick of complaints that the agency expected from consumers.

“We’ve waited to see an increase in complaints about hardship and problems paying a bill — we think that will come, but by the end of the year it wasn’t showing up as a particular issue. It was starting to rise but it actually dropped off as an important issue in the pandemic because of financial support,” Jones said.

“We are anticipating, as government and providers wind back support measures, we’ll see more hardship issues for residential and small business consumers,” Jones said. 

She noted, however, that there has been a 1,500% increase of consumer complaints during the most recent quarter in the category of being unable to contact internet providers when experiencing connection issues.

The latest report by the TIO, released in July, had revealed there was a direct correlation between the coronavirus pandemic, and the complaints it received between March and June 2020. 

The TIO’s systemic investigation report uncovered that there was an increase in complaints from mid-March by consumers about not being able to contact their providers. By early April, the average number of daily complaints by consumers being unable to reach their providers peaked at 130.

“What we did see in their complaints that came to us was the impact was more important for consumers, so not having a working internet service impacted not just watching Netflix in

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