Telstra to cushion impact of price rises

Low-income earners, the unemployed and pensioners will receive special help in a new telephone pricing package approved by Federal Cabinet. After consultation over the past year with welfare groups including ACOSS and the Salvation Army, Telstra will introduce several products specifically targeted to people in need, to offset changes to the price-cap system.

Some details of the new pricing system are:

  • fixed-line rentals to increase from $19.95 to $32 over a period of five years;
  • introduction of an emergency relief fund to provide support for up to 100,000 financially disadvantaged customers;
  • a virtual messaging service for people such as the homeless and job seekers without fixed telephone services;
  • enhancement of the pensioner concession scheme, including an option for pensioners to use their current $6-a-month call rebate to access the Internet;
  • enhancements to services for the needy, now including outgoing calls as well as incoming under the Incontact service;
  • householders given the option to hold on to their current lower-cost line rentals in exchange for higher-cost call charges.

Telstra will fund the measures with $150 million to be redirected from the current price-capping system. Telstra says that the increase in fixed-line rentals means it can recover the full cost of providing fixed phones while allowing call charges to be much more competitive.