Priority assistance is a higher service standard for new connections and fault repairs available to customers who need the telephone to access emergency medical treatment or advice in the event of a rapid deterioration in their life-threatening medical condition.
The Telecommunications Act 1997 (the Act) requires potential residential customers to be told about priority assistance when enquiring about telephone services (see Part 6 of Schedule 2 to the Act).
There are rules that apply to carriage service providers (CSPs) offering priority assistance—and to those that don’t.
Telstra is the only carrier required to provide priority assistance.
Telstra’s duties with priority assistance are laid out in its policy and detailed on its website.
If you are a CSP other than Telstra, you may provide priority assistance, but are not required to do so.
If you choose to provide priority assistance, you must comply with the industry code.
Rules for CSPs not providing priority assistance
If you are a CSP that does not offer priority assistance, you must:
- inform any prospective residential customer inquiring about a standard telephone service that you do not offer priority assistance
- inform your prospective residential customers of the names of one or more CSPs that do provide priority assistance.
As you may have a prospective customer who wants a priority assistance service, they should be told straight away if you do not offer priority assistance, so they can move on to a CSP who does.
That is, you should provide the required information to the prospective residential customer at the time they ask about the service, and not wait until they become an actual customer.
You must also give the information when an existing residential customer asks about a new standard telephone service that is ‘materially different’ from their current service. For example, a new standard telephone service bundled with other services over the NBN would be materially different to one delivered over a copper connection.
Breaches of the Act can lead to significant penalties.
For more information on priority assistance, please contact the ACMA’s Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.