Telstra has been ordered to abide by financial hardship regulations after the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) discovered the telco had taken credit management actions against 70 customers.
The 70 customers were affected between August 2019 and April this year. Among them, 22 had services restricted, four had services suspended, five were disconnected, and two were referred to outside debt collection agencies.
In a statement on Thursday the ACMA said customers were operating on a financial hardship arrangement with Telstra. It added that credit management action needed to be suspended under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.
ACMA says further non-compliance could lead to penalties of up to $250,000
Acting chair of the ACMA, Creina Chapman said with the pressures caused by rising costs of living and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever for telcos to support their customers, particularly those in difficult circumstances.
“Telco services like phone and Internet are now essential to daily life, used for everything from work and education, through to health and government services, so even briefly suspending or disconnecting customers can cause a real disruption to their lives.” said Chapman
According to the ACMA, Telstra’s errors were caused by faulty communications between two Telstra legacy IT systems, which prevented or delayed status updates for certain customers. In 61 cases, the issues were resolved within a day.
Chapman says Telstra must continue to address these longstanding issues as a matter of urgency so that its systems can deliver on customer safeguards.
“Protecting telco customers experiencing financial hardship is an ACMA compliance priority and all telcos can expect greater scrutiny of their dealings in these matters.” said Chapman.
The investigation comes after several ACMA enforcement actions against Telstra for issues known to be caused by legacy IT systems.