Help is being channelled through the TIO’s Natural Disasters help line - 03 8600 8308 - which opened from Thursday, but the Ombudsman advises those seeking help to contact their providers - including Telstra or Optus - first.
Ombudsman Judi Jones said staying connected through phone and Internet services is important for the safety of residential consumers and small businesses in areas impacted by natural disasters.
“For local residents, remaining connected to phone and Internet services means being able to contact emergency services, stay connected to medical assistance, and remain in touch with friends, family and neighbours. For small businesses it means being able to continue trading, supplying goods and providing a vital network for members of the community,” Jones said.
“Our dedicated Natural Disasters phone line means consumers and small businesses can talk to someone who understands the issues and will assist in working out what can be done to resolve their phone or Internet issue.”
Telstra customers affected by bushfires should call 132 203 and state they are in a bushfire impacted area, or visit Telstra Exchange online to access the disaster relief services.
The TIO says that, in addition to helping people on the ground, Telstra is giving access to free calls and free Telstra Air Wi-Fi through local payphones for everyone in areas affected by bushfires in NSW and Queensland.
And Optus customers affected by bushfires should call the dedicated phone line 1300 301 671.
The TIO advises that Optus is also working with local evacuation centres in the affected areas to provide support including pre-paid phones, pre-paid data packs and charging stations.
“If you are in a bushfire or flood affected area and have attempted to resolve your phone or Internet issue with your provider, contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman on our Natural Disasters phone line, 03 8600 8308, or visit our website www.tio.com.au to lodge a complaint,” Jones said.