The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found Telstra in breach of consumer protection rules after it failed to give notice to more than 5,400 customers before restricting or suspending their services.
An investigation found that between May and July 2022 Telstra took action to limit the customers’ services due to non-payment of bills without providing at least five working days’ notice as required under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.
ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin said telcos must take extra care when it comes to taking actions that disrupt people’s services.
“Phone and internet connections are essential for our everyday lives. We use them for work, education, banking, health services and social connection.
“With the current cost of living pressures, many Australians are doing it tough. By limiting peoples’ services without notice Telstra likely caused these people significant additional stress,” Ms O’Loughlin said.
Telstra’s actions prevented affected customers from making outbound calls except to emergency services or to Telstra. Some customers were also unable to receive calls except from emergency services or Telstra.
As a result of the breaches the ACMA has issued Telstra with a formal warning.
One of the ACMA’s 2022-23 compliance priorities is the protection of telco consumers experiencing financial hardship. Fundamental to this is making sure that telcos comply with their obligations, especially those relating to the disconnection of services (https://www.acma.gov.au/compliance-priorities).
The ACMA will soon release a report looking at customer financial hardship in the telco sector together with research into the customer experience.
Ms O’Loughlin also encouraged anyone struggling to pay their phone or internet bill to contact their service provider.
“Telcos are obliged to help people facing financial hardship and there are a range of options available to help customers manage their bills.”
More information on what to do if you are struggling to pay your telco bill can be found here: Help if you can't pay your bill | ACMA