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The Australian Communications and Media Authority has ordered Telstra to comply with rules governing financial hardship after the telco was found to have taken credit management action against 70 customers.
These customers were operating on a financial hardship arrangement with Telstra, ACMA said in a statement on Thursday, adding that credit management action needed to be suspended under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code.
Credit management action can include service suspension, disconnection, or debt collection.
Creina Chapman, the acting chair of ACMA, said in a statement: “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.”
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.
ACMA said the errors on Telstra's part were due to faulty communications between two Telstra legacy IT systems that blocked or delayed status updates of the customers in question. In 61 cases, the issues were resolved within a day.
The investigation came after a number of ACMA enforcement actions against Telstra for issues caused by legacy IT systems.
“Telstra must continue to address these longstanding issues as a matter of urgency so that its systems can deliver on customer safeguards,” Chapman said.
“Protecting telco customers experiencing financial hardship is an ACMA compliance priority and all telcos can expect greater scrutiny of their dealings in these matters.”
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