As a consumer, you’re entitled to minimum performance standards for the connection and fault repair of standard telephone services. These are outlined in the Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard.
Providers of standard telephone services must connect and repair these services within the timeframes in the CSG Standard. Failure to do so will mean the provider is generally liable to automatically pay compensation to the affected customer.
What is a mass service disruption?
A mass service disruption (MSD) is where mass outages have occurred due to extreme weather conditions or other factors beyond the provider’s control. In these situations, mass outages of phone services may occur and the provider may not be able to meet timeframes for connecting a telephone service or repairing a fault on your telephone line.
Can a provider be exempt from complying with the CSG Standard?
A provider may be exempt from complying with the performance standards specified in the CSG Standard in situations such as:
- where the provider supplies the customer with more than five eligible standard telephone services
- where the provider is undertaking maintenance on or upgrading its telecommunications network and it has given the customer reasonable notice of the maintenance or upgrade
- in certain circumstances where the customer has a bad credit history
- in situations where circumstances beyond the control of the provider prevent it from complying with performance standards.
When is a provider exempt from complying with performance standards in circumstances beyond its control?
A provider is exempt from complying with performance standards in circumstances beyond its control (section 21 of the CSG Standard). Such circumstances may include (but are not limited to):
- if damage to a provider’s facility or telecommunications network is caused by a third party
- where a natural disaster or extreme weather conditions causes a mass outage of services and restrict the provider’s ability to connect services
- if the provider is required by government or emergency services to assist in an emergency
- if the provider is unable to obtain lawful access to land or a facility
- where a Commonwealth, state or territory law prevents the provider from complying with a performance standard
- if the provider needs to move staff or equipment to an area impacted by circumstances beyond its control.
What are considered extreme weather conditions under the CSG?
Where a provider is claiming an exemption from a performance standard as a result of extreme weather conditions in an area, it must include evidence in writing that these conditions meet one or more of the criteria of extreme weather conditions specified in Schedule 3 of the CSG Standard. These include:
- large hail
- heavy rainfall
- flash floods
- hazardous winds
- unusually large surf waves
- storm tides.
More detailed definitions of these extreme weather conditions are included in Schedule 3 of the CSG Standard; however, they broadly align with conditions where the Bureau of Meteorology will issue a severe weather warning.
Are customers notified when a provider claims an exemption?
If a provider is claiming an exemption from the CSG Standard, it must notify affected customers. Providers have two options—they may:
- Notify all customers in an affected area by publishing a notice on its website within eight working days of the start of the exemption and in a local newspaper in daily circulation within nine working days. A copy must also be given to the ACMA and the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO).
- Individually notify customers of the exemption that is affecting their service within 10 working days of its commencement. Individual notifications do not need to be given to the ACMA or TIO.
What information should the MSD public notice include?
The public notification should include:
- a statement indicating that the provider is claiming an exemption from the CSG Standard
- the circumstances that have resulted in the provider claiming an exemption (for example, damage to a facility or extreme weather events)
- the telephone numbers of affected services
- an estimate of the number of affected services
- a description of the area bounded by the exemption claim
- a unique identifier for the exemption
- if the exemption relates to an extreme weather events, evidence in writing must be included in the notice
- a statement indicating that affected customers can dispute the exemption claim with the provider and the TIO (if the provider does not adequately resolve the customer’s concerns)
- contact information for the provider.
The content requirements for individual notices are generally the same as for mass service disruption notices, although they do not have to include details about the number of services affected or the area impacted by the exemption.
Can I dispute an exemption?
If your provider has claimed an exemption from the CSG Standard in your area due to circumstances beyond its control, you can dispute the exemption claim. The exemption notice must include relevant contact details for you to contact your provider. If you are dissatisfied with the provider’s response to your complaint, you can contact the TIO for assistance.
Does the ACMA approve or verify circumstances for MSDs?
While the ACMA has a role in enforcing compliance with the CSG Standard, it does not approve or verify the circumstances for mass service disruptions. The ACMA does monitor the use of the CSG exemption provisions and examines each notice received for compliance with the content and notification requirements of the CSG Standard. The ACMA also reports aggregated statistics on the use of mass service disruption exemptions in its annual communications report.
Where can I find more information?
Customers should first contact their provider for information about mass service disruptions.
For more information about the Customer Service Guarantee and mass service disruptions, please contact the ACMA's Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.