Mobile virtual network operator Lycamobile has forked out for an infringement notice of $604,800 after the Australian telco industry regulator found “prolonged and large-scale customer data failures” by the company.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) conducted an investigation into Lycamobile that found 245,902 instances where the telco provider did not provide accurate customer information to an industry database used by police, fire and ambulance services, and 4,207 instances where it failed to comply with ID check rules before signing up prepaid mobile customers.
The Integrated Public Numbers Database (IPND) is used by emergency services when responding to Triple Zero (000) calls from the public. Information from the IPND is also used for the Emergency Alert Service, which was relied on extensively throughout the 2020 bushfires and COVID crises.
Lycamobile’s failure to undertake proper customer ID checks when activating prepaid services was also a public safety issue, the ACMA suggested, noting that police investigations into criminal activity are hampered when the owner of a mobile phone cannot be identified.
“Telcos have a responsibility to help keep Australians safe during natural disasters or life-threatening circumstances. Lycamobile may have put people’s lives at risk by not passing accurate information on to the IPND,” the ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said.
As well as the financial penalty, the ACMA has also required the company to conduct an independent audit of its systems and processes and to implement improvements, given the serious nature of the company’s non-compliance over a lengthy period.
Should Lycamobile fail to comply with its customer data or pre-paid ID check obligations in the future, the ACMA said it can commence proceedings in the Federal Court for civil penalties of up to $250,000 per contravention.
Another recent investigation by the ACMA saw Telstra fined $1.5 million in early May for failing to allow customers to keep their existing Australian phone number when changing telecommunication providers.
In that instance, the infringement payment followed an investigation by the ACMA that found Telstra had failed to provide consumers with a local number porting option after the COVID-19 outbreak last year.