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Telstra breaches financial hardship rules

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Australia’s telecoms regulator ordered Telstra to comply with consumer protection rules after an investigation found problems with IT systems incorrectly allowed it to take credit management action against customers on a financial hardship arrangement.

Under the country’s telecoms code, operators are required to suspend credit management action while a financial hardship arrangement is being discussed or is in place.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) noted in a statement problems in two Telstra legacy IT systems prevented or delayed a status update of the customers involved.

The agency said any further non-compliance could lead to penalties of up to AUD250,000 ($166,511), adding the recent probe follows multiple ACMA enforcement actions against Telstra for a range of issues due to problems with IT systems.

Acting ACMA chair Creina Chapman said financial hardship arrangements are a key consumer protection tool to support people experiencing financial difficulties.

“Telstra must continue to address these long-standing issues as a matter of urgency so that its systems can deliver on customer safeguards,” Chapman said.

ACMA said 70 customers were affected between August 2019 and April 2022, with service restricted for 22, suspended for four, disconnected for five and two were referred to outside collection agencies. The others received letters or calls requesting payment.

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