Legacy IT system issues led Telstra to incorrectly take actions against 70 customers on financial hardship arrangements, in breach of an industry consumer protection code.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has directed Telstra to comply with the Telecommunications Consumer Protections code.
The TCP code prevents carriers from suspending or disconnecting services or launching debt collection actions while a financial hardship arrangement is in place or being discussed.
Of the 70 customers impacted between August 2019 and April 2022, 22 had their services restricted, four had services suspended, five were disconnected and two were referred to outside collection agencies.
Other actions included letters or calls requesting payment.
The ACMA said “issues” between two legacy IT systems prevented or delayed an all-important status update about the customers’ services.
“For 61 of the customers the issue was resolved within 24 hours”, the regulator said in a statement.
In spite of its T22 and T25 transformation projects, Telstra continues to be caught out by legacy systems problems bring ACMA enforcement actions.
In May, the regulator directed Telstra to pay $11 million in customer compensation that had been delayed by system failures.
Other actions involving legacy systems impacted billing accuracy, download speed, and Integrated Public Number Database (IPND – the carrier failed to upload silent number requests to the database) updates.
“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,” acting ACMA chair Creina 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.”
Further non-compliance with the TCP code could lead to significant consequences for Telstra, with penalties of up to $250,000 for failing to comply with the ACMA direction.
Telstra customer service executive Kate Cotter told iTnews: “Our financial hardship policy is designed to support our customers and keep them connected during tough times. Over three years, 70 customers who were on a financial hardship arrangement with Telstra were subject to credit management action.
“We found and fixed the vast majority of these errors quickly, but we’re sorry that our processes let these customers down.
“The issue was caused by legacy systems not synchronising properly and we are well on the way to ensuring this is a thing of the past, by replacing these old systems with seamless digital experiences. In the meantime, we have implemented IT fixes and regular manual checks to prevent further issues while we complete our systems overhaul.”