The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Telstra for failing to comply with its ‘priority assistance’ obligations.
As a condition of its carrier licence, Telstra is required to provide priority assistance to customers who have a life-threatening medical condition, and once identified, must have systems in place to provide those customers with additional levels of service.
An ACMA investigation found Telstra failed to:
- Send priority assistance application forms and/or required additional information on more than 260 occasions to customers who had made contact to enquire about priority assistance.
- Initiate ‘emergency medical request’ procedures on five occasions to 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, which requires it to undertake testing of a priority assistance customer’s telephone service if two faults are reported by the customer over a three-month period.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the licence condition aims to help these vulnerable Australians have access to a working phone service and that any faults are fixed quickly.
“Some of these customers were having problems with their Telstra fixed line service at the same time as dealing with significant medical issues,” Ms Nerida O’Loughlin said.
“These are some of Telstra’s most vulnerable customers and the telco must have adequate systems in place to make sure these important obligations are always met.”
In addition to the investigation findings, Telstra reported that there were 740 other instances where it was unable to locate records of whether priority assistance paperwork was sent.
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 has also increased the monitoring of staff who handle priority assistance communications to ensure the correct steps are followed.
If Telstra fails to comply with the conditions of the enforceable undertaking the ACMA may consider commencing Federal Court proceedings.