Telstra has taken the number one spot out of four major Australian telecommunications companies for NBN service continuity rule breaches.
The telco was joined by Optus, TPG and Vocus Communications subsidiary Dodo to have breached consumer protection rules after more than 1,500 of the companies' customers were left without services during NBN migration attempts from February to April 2019, according to investigations by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The rules in question relate to the Telecommunications Service Provider (NBN Service Migration) Determination 2018 and the Telecommunications (NBN Continuity of Service) Industry Standard 2018, which require a replacement service to be in place after three working days of a failed NBN connection attempt.
They also necessitate a remedial plan to address issues if the failed connection takes more than 20 days and then a technical audit is supposed to take place if the failed connection time frame surpasses 40 days.
Of the four telcos, Telstra made a total of 4,139 individual breaches. Optus followed with 1,998, then TPG with 1,308 and Dodo with 584. Telstra's dominance in the breach tally should come as little surprise, given its standing as the largest telco in the country and the size of its customer-base, which outstrips those of the other telcos named by the ACMA.
To address the breaches, each of the four telcos were required to provide court-enforceable undertakings, outlining the measures they plan to integrate into their business operations to avoid further breaches.
These measures varied between the four telcos, but included various workplace training initiatives and new management systems to keep track of further issues.
However, Telstra was the only telco to mention the impact that COVID-19 has had on its attempts to make up for its breaches.
“As a result of the business disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, several of the remedial actions … are currently not operationally feasible,” its undertaking document stated.
The reasons for this, it claimed, were two-fold — the first being that its workforce and contractors in India have seen a significant reduction in availability with the Indian Government shutting down over 75 districts across the country.
The second reason was a shift in its focus on network stability, emergency services calls and delivery of priority customer services.
Breaking down the breaches by infringement, ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the four telcos made 1,586 breaches for not providing replacement services.
“Many Australians rely on phone and internet services for their work and home lives, and significant disruptions can have a heavy impact on their livelihoods and wellbeing,” O’Loughlin said.
“TPG, Optus, Dodo and Telstra have all let down these customers and effectively left them high and dry during the NBN migration.”
Furthermore, the remedial plans and technical audits were found by ACMA investigations to not be taking place, resulting in 5,158 breaches.
If the telcos don’t comply with the undertakings, ACMA noted that it can initiate proceedings against them in the Federal Court.
This is the latest instance in recent months that ACMA has pursued telcos for rule breaches. It chased four telcos for not joining a mandatory scheme for small business and consumer dispute resolutions in July.