Telstra is in hot water for failing to warn 5,400 customers of their services being restricted due to non-payment of bills, once again blaming a system error.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has taken Telstra to task for not giving customers at least five working days’ notice before suspending or restricting their connections as required under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.
The media authority has now given the telco a formal warning, claiming its 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.
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,” O’Loughlin said.
A Telstra spokesperson said they had identified and reported to ACMA that a small number of customers – with unpaid bills – didn’t get the required notice before having their services either restricted or suspended.
“We quickly identified a system error that meant customers without an email address on credit management didn’t receive a letter letting them know that their service would be restricted unless payment was made,” they said.
“We fixed the issue in our system and contacted the impacted customers. It should be noted that all customers during this time were still able to call Triple Zero in the event of an emergency.
“We take this matter seriously and understand this breakdown in process caused frustration for customers."
In November the telco was found to breach credit management rules after issues with its legacy IT systems resulted in action against 70 customers who were on a financial hardship arrangement.
In May last year, Telstra’s internal IT systems wreaked havoc again following delayed compensation payments of more than $11 million to 67,000 customers.
At the time the telco said it had committed to implement an improved payment assessment solution so that any compensation owed to customers was paid on time.