Important things you need to know

Financial hardship is a situation where a customer is unable, reasonably, because of illness, unemployment or other reasonable cause, to meet their financial obligations with us but reasonably expects to be able to discharge those obligations if payment and/or service arrangements were changed. Southern Phone Company maintains a Financial Hardship policy in accordance with this definition to assist customers experiencing financial difficulty. Our policy goal is to put in place an arrangement with customers who are experiencing financial hardship which enables them to continue to have access to some telecommunications services while paying their account over an agreed timeframe. Southern Phone staff responsible for discussing and constructing financial hardship payment arrangements with customers are fully trained in this policy.

Financial hardship circumstances

Financial Hardship can take place over a limited timeframe or be long-term and can result from a number of factors including:

Loss of employment, either for that person or a family member

Family breakdown

Illness, including physical incapacity, hospitalisation, or mental illness, either for that person or a family member

A death in the family

Unexpected or increased family commitments, due to circumstances such as the above.

It involves an inability to pay bills rather than an unwillingness and would not usually cover situations where a customer is simply experiencing temporary payment difficulties.

Assessment of financial hardship

Recognition of financial hardship is made at the sole discretion of Southern Phone Company. To assist us in establishing that recognition we may request supporting evidence, including, but not limited to:

Documentation such as a statutory declaration from a person familiar with the customer

Evidence of the customer having consulted with, and/or being accompanied by a recognised financial counsellor or a booking to see a financial counsellor.

Arrangements made as a consequence of financial hardship

The fundamental principle of any agreed financial arrangement is that repayments be sufficient to cover expected future use of the service as well as providing continued reduction of debt. Southern Phone imposes no charge on customers for the implementation of a financial arrangement. In reaching an arrangement a customer may be required to:

Acknowledge the debt and the obligation to repay the debt

Provide sufficient information for both parties to ascertain what is a reasonable payment arrangement

Indicate a willingness to reducing usage to a level that they are able to pay and take up relevant service options to that end

Make repayments as agreed

Use appropriate products, services and access levels, as negotiated with Southern Phone

If any further financial difficulty is experienced, immediately notify Southern Phone so that the arrangement can be reviewed.

In reaching an agreement Southern Phone will:

Ensure that none of a customer

Confirm that the customer is the person who is legally liable to pay the debt

Refrain from credit management action whilst financial hardship arrangements are being discussed unless credit management action appears to be reasonable in the circumstances

Explain rights and obligations under the terms of the payment arrangement

Explain service limitations if service limitations are part of the arrangement

Require assurance that the arrangement will be one that the customer can meet

Monitor customer compliance with the financial hardship arrangement

Not vary the terms of the arrangement if the customer is meeting those term

If an agreed arrangement is not kept, Southern Phone will:

Take reasonable steps to contact the customer or nominated financial counsellor (if applicable) before taking further credit management action

If we can

Financial Counselling

Customers facing financial difficulty may wish to consider obtaining advice from a community financial counsellor. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) maintains a list of financial counselling organisations which can be found here.

Contacting Southern Phone

Please contact us on 1800 356 227 during business hours or email to contact@southernphone.com.au if you are having difficulty paying your bill so that we can discuss the options that are available to you.

You can download a summary of the Financial Hardship Policy here.