I’m in shock, not bill shock, but it is bill related. I’ve just discovered a telecommunications company, an incumbent operator no less, that was so concerned about its customers ability to pay bills it actually did something about it.

Australia’s Telstra not only put in place a scheme to assist customers impacted by the global economic downturn it even went as far as commissioning research to see how effective the scheme was and the reasons behind people having to resort to assistance.

As reported previously, communication is no longer an option for people to maintain a normal lifestyle, it is an essential. It has become a commodity, and the loss of service for many people is their greatest fear.

The Telstra Bill Assistance Program (TBAP) was established assist people experiencing financial difficulty and unable to pay their Telstra bill. Telstra funds the program and participating community agencies assess the needs of clients and, where appropriate, provide Telstra Bill Assistance Certificate(s) of a fixed amount towards their Telstra home, mobile or internet bill.

In 2008–09 over 30,000 different customers were assisted with TBAP with a total benefit of AU$4,170,000 provided. TBAP was seen as clearly helping to prevent disconnection of phone services with 47 percent believing their phone service would have been disconnected if not for such assistance.

TBAP recipients were generally seeking financial assistance for the compounding problems of limited income, multiple bills and unexpected larger bills. Many of these people wait until the situation is quite severe before seeking financial assistance due to a sense of embarrassment of having to ask for help.

Interestingly, the same number of customers said they increased their usage of telecommunications, as those who said they reduced their usage to lessen the bill, due to the GFC. This increased usage was to look for work and contact family, the doctor and other support services. Three quarters of those surveyed viewed their home phone as their most important service with the internet emerging as being more required for educational, transactional and entertainment purposes.

What a great story and congratulations to Telstra for being so proactive. Sadly, the world’s press is far more interested in ‘bill shock’ itself and not what one great company in our industry has done about it. Are there any other similar cases out there? I hope so.