Telstra’s vulnerable customers ignored – ACMA court-enforceable undertaking to address issues

Telstra’s vulnerable customers ignored – The ACMA has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Telstra for failing to comply with its ‘priority assistance’ obligations.

Priority Assistance generally means providing 100% reliable fixed-line telephone services over NBN for diagnosed a life-threatening medical condition whose life may be at risk without access to a working voice telephone service. Applicants require certification by a medical practitioner or another authorised person. A simplified explanation is here.

It is part of Telstra’s obligations in the Carrier Licence Conditions Declaration 1997 (Carrier Licence Conditions) and Universal Service Obligations. Failure to comply could result in fines or even loss of its Carrier License. Its obligation is only to Telstra and its Bigpond direct clients. In some cases, that extends to CSPs (NBN carriage service providers) using Telstra infrastructure.

Telstra’s vulnerable customers ignored

The ACMA investigation found Telstra failed to:

  • Send priority assistance application forms and/or required additional information more than 260 times to customers who enquire about priority assistance.
  • Initiate ‘emergency medical request’ procedures on five occasions for two customers when it was required to do so. These procedures can include making sure the phone is fixed quickly, or an alternative is available.
  • Follow processes for ‘enhanced service reliability’ on one occasion. It must test a priority assistance customer’s telephone service if the customer reports two faults over three months.
  • In addition to the investigation findings, Telstra found 740 other instances where it could not locate records of sending priority assistance paperwork.

ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the licence condition aims to help these vulnerable Australians have access to a working, reliable phone service.

Some of these customers were having problems with their Telstra fixed-line service while dealing with significant medical issues. These are some of Telstra’s most vulnerable customers. The Telco must have adequate systems to ensure these important obligations are always met.

Court enforceable undertaking

Under the court-enforceable undertaking, Telstra will implement new systems to address the deficiencies in its existing procedures to ensure customers requiring priority assistance are provided with the required information and can easily register for the service.

Telstra will also increase the monitoring of staff who handle priority assistance communications to ensure compliance with the correct steps.

If Telstra fails to comply with the conditions of the enforceable undertaking, the ACMA may consider commencing Federal Court proceedings.

CyberShack Consumer Advice