Telstra sorry for poor phone deals
Telstra has apologised for selling “phones to customers who ultimately could not afford them” in Indigenous communities.
Telstra's Retail and Regional executive Fiona Hayes has addressed issues with the company's sales practices at the Aboriginal Economic Development Forum at the Darwin Convention Centre.
It comes after Telstra faced investigation earlier this year over its sale of “unaffordable contacts” to vulnerable Australians in Indigenous communities, primarily in the NT but also in other remote parts of Australia.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in June that it was looking into claims Telstra breached consumer law.
The company is alleged to have sold contracts to customers on Centrelink that cost as much as $250 a month.
Many of those customers were reportedly hit with excess data charges and allowed to run up bills worth thousands of dollars.
“The ACCC is investigating allegations involving Telstra Corporation Ltd regarding its selling practices associated with the supply of mobile phones, plans and ancillary goods and services to some vulnerable Indigenous Australian people,” an ACCC statement in June said.
“The assessment of the alleged conduct is ongoing, including as to any implications under the Australian Consumer Law.
“Conduct impacting Indigenous Australians is an enduring priority for the ACCC.”
Ms Hayes said Telstra is now looking at new ways to minimise the risk of people with low incomes accruing large debts they cannot pay.
“Put simply, the standards our customers expect from us — and what we expect from ourselves and our partners — were simply not met,” Ms Hayes said.
“This was an uncomfortable truth for us to face.
“Of most concern is the fact that this behaviour was enough to break the trust we want to foster with our customers in the community.”
She said the company is working to resolve issues.
“It was quite a challenge to learn and identify or have raised with us instances where a small number of our partners had sold phones to customers who ultimately could not afford them and in some instances this was not appropriate to our customers' needs,” Ms Hayes said.
“This included sales to Indigenous Australians living in remote communities.”
The company also claims to be taking “very significant disciplinary action” on partners who do the wrong things.
“We're incredibly sorry to the customers that have been impacted by these sales practices,” Ms Hayes said.
“It's absolutely not acceptable.”
She said Telstra has a range of new measures to protect customers, including a contact centre for rural, remote and Indigenous customers with specially trained staff.
The company also plans to meet with Indigenous communities and speak to them about its shortcomings, including obtaining more details about customers' primary source of income at point of sale.