TELCOS UNITE TO SUPPORT AUSTRALIANS AFFECTED BY DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE
Sydney, 4 May 2023: Communications Alliance today released a substantially revised and updated industry guideline designed to help telcos better support Australians affected by domestic and family violence (DFV).
Telecommunications services play a critical role in supporting people experiencing domestic family violence by providing a digital lifeline for those in need. Unfortunately, the same technology can also be used as a vehicle for abuse. This places the sector in a unique position to manage and respond to the issues.
The updated guideline, G660:2023: Assisting Consumers Affected by Domestic and Family Violence, provides up-to-date, industry best-practice information to assist telcos better recognise and respond to customers impacted by DFV.
Developed through a comprehensive and collaborative review process involving both general and DFV specialist consumer groups, government and regulatory agencies and telcos, the guideline has been expanded to cover the full range of telecommunications consumers, products and services, to better recognise the many different types of violence and abuse those affected by DFV may experience, and to acknowledge the different relationship settings in which abuse can occur.
It has also been extensively restructured and amended to better support its practical implementation, with a focus on plain-English information, guidance and advice for retail Carriage Service Provider (RSP) management and staff.
Commenting on the new Guideline, Committee Chair, Annie Leahy (TPG Telecom), said:
"Domestic and family violence is a significant health and welfare issue in Australia and combatting it is a whole-of-community responsibility. Research shows that one woman is killed every 7-9 days and one man every 29 days in Australia by a current or former partner. Violence and abuse can present in many ways – from physical, economic or technology-facilitated abuse to unwelcome and life-threatening communications - and can affect people of all genders, ages and socio-economic status.
“Telecommunications services are a lifeline for people who are affected by DFV. The new guideline provides telcos with guidance on how to help Australians stay connected to their phone and internet services, safely manage their account, and better assist those in financial hardship as a result of DFV.
“The first version of the guideline, created in 2018, provided an excellent starting point to assist and educate telcos about the issues associated with DFV and their role in preventing abuse and assisting consumers. The practical, operational-level guidance in this revised document builds on that work, to provide clear, expanded tools to help telcos better understand and appropriately, discreetly and safely identify and assist consumers affected by DFV, within the context and constraints of other telecommunications industry legal and regulatory obligations.”
Commenting on the new Guideline, Communications Alliance Senior Manager, Policy and Regulation, Peppi Wilson, said:
“Communications Alliance and its members feel passionately that a guideline on this topic needs to reflect best practice as recommended by industry and DFV specialists. We have worked incredibly hard to listen and learn and to produce an updated guideline that, we believe, achieves that.
“It is important to understand that this guideline is aspirational; it goes beyond industry’s current capabilities. It will take time for RSPs to review their current policies and practices to consider where improvements might be made, and it will take time for any identified changes to be implemented, particularly where they involve changes to IT systems.
“Further, as with the initial Guideline, this will be a ‘living document’. The industry still has much to learn about the issues facing those affected by DFV and is keen to monitor the effectiveness of the guidance, learn lessons from the experience of industry peers, and make adjustments as required.
“We also recognise that there are key elements of the guideline that are critical to its successful implementation and should, therefore, be mandated through the appropriate regulatory mechanisms. As such, we have already started to look at codifying key clauses from the Guideline as part of the upcoming revision of the registered and enforceable Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code.”
Significantly, Communications Alliance has also already strengthened protections for those affected by DFV in proposed changes to two other Codes – both currently awaiting registration - that were reviewed in parallel with the DFV Guideline.
The Communications Alliance Assisting Customers Affected by Domestic and Family Violence Guideline is publicly available here. It replaces G660: 2018: Assisting Customers Experiencing Domestic and Family Violence.
Working group participants include: Amaysim, Aussie Broadband, Foxtel, Optus, Pivotel, Telstra, TPG Telecom and Vocus Group.
Communications Alliance wishes to acknowledge the following stakeholders and thank them for their engagement, case studies, knowledge-sharing and openness during the information-gathering and consultation stages of this review: WESNET, Woman’s Legal Service Victoria, Economic Abuse Reference Group (EARG), 1800RESPECT, Katherine Women's Legal Service, DV Service Management, DV Safephone, Relationships Australia, the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research & Methods, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC), Telco Together Foundation and the Thriving Communities Partnership.
"Without the strong participation and expert knowledge of these stakeholders, the valuable and important progress enabled by the revised guideline would not have been achievable,” Ms Leahy said.
ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS ALLIANCE
Communications Alliance is the primary communications 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, platform providers, equipment vendors, IT companies, consultants and business groups.
Its vision is to be 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.
The prime mission of Communications Alliance is 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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