TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY REINFORCES SUPPORT FOR CUSTOMERS EXPERIENCING DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
Sydney, 23 October 2018: Communications Alliance today published a Guideline to help telecommunications providers assist Customers who are impacted by the all-too-frequent scourge of domestic and family violence.
The Industry Guideline: Assisting Customers Experiencing Domestic and Family Violence includes a range of tools providers can use to support customers across their operations. It touches on topics including improved staff training, communicating with customers who are the victims of violence, and the prevention of technology-facilitated abuse.
The Guideline also contains advice on how to better assist customers who have experienced economic abuse in relation to their telecommunications services – a phenomenon that is often associated with physical violence.
The Guideline is intended to educate providers on the prevalence of domestic and family violence and how it can overlap with telecommunications services. It focuses on the importance of being flexible and empowering customers.
Communications Alliance CEO, John Stanton, said: “the prevalence of domestic and family violence in Australia is very disturbing, and every industry should work to fight this epidemic.
“Providers need to be aware that many of their customers and staff will at some stage be affected by domestic and family violence. In these circumstances, telecommunications service can be a lifeline for victims, but – unfortunately - can sometimes also be used by perpetrators to compound the abuse.
“While there are no simple solutions, we have worked with experts in this area to identify key areas of impact and how service providers can help.
“The Guideline emphasises the importance of flexible responses to customers, as each individual’s experience and needs will be unique, while enumerating specific tools such as privacy and safety procedures.
“For example, an intimate partner may know most information used to verify a customer’s account and may therefore be able to gain access to new contact details or control a victim’s account. Telcos should work with each customer in this situation to create new identity verification procedures, so they are not linked to details the abuser has access to.
“We have also devised new co-regulatory arrangements to enable victims of domestic and family violence whose mobile service is part of a telecommunications contract controlled by the perpetrator to exit the arrangement but still retain their original number - something that was not possible under previous rules.
“A long-held number can often be a valued asset and a connection to friends and support, particularly when going through a traumatic period.”
The Guideline was developed over the past year through a consultative process with Industry, consumer representatives, and community organisations. Communications Alliance would like to acknowledge all those who participated, including the Economic Abuse Reference Group (EARG) and the Women’s Services Network (WESNET), as their extensive knowledge and leadership in the space was invaluable in creating the Guideline. Providers involved in the development of the Guideline included Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, amaysim, and Pivotel.
The Guideline builds on previous work, including last year’s registration of a variation to the Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code to expressly provide that being a victim of family or domestic violence is a criterion for access to Financial Hardship assistance and publication of a revised Handling of Life Threatening and Unwelcome Communications Code that provides greater protection for Australian consumers against threatening and unwelcome communications including technology facilitated abuse, such as harassment by an abuser.
The upcoming publication of a revised TCP Code will also strengthen a range of protections for all consumers.
“This Guideline is a first step in an ongoing process,” said Stanton. “We will continue working with industry and community representatives to ensure appropriate implementation, and the Guideline is a living document that will be updated as we continue to learn.”
The Guideline is available here.
Communications Alliance is the primary telecommunications industry body in Australia. Its membership is drawn from a wide cross-section of the communications industry, including carriers, carriage and internet service providers, content providers, search engines, equipment vendors, IT companies, consultants and business groups.
The most influential association in Australian communications, co-operatively initiating programs that promote sustainable industry development, innovation and growth, while generating positive outcomes for customers and society. To create a co-operative stakeholder environment that allows the industry to take the lead on initiatives which grow the Australian communications industry, enhance the connectivity of all Australians and foster the highest standards of business behaviour. For more details about Communications Alliance, see www.commsalliance.com.au.
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