Telco fined $300k for emergency system fail

TELSTRA Shop Generics
Telstra has been fined $300,000 for failing to share thousands of customer details with a database critical to emergency response. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

Telstra has been fined $300,000 for failing to provide accurate details of thousands of customers to a database that is critical to the emergency warning system.

The database, known as the Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), is used by triple-0 to help locate people in an emergency, to warn Australians of flood or bushfire, and to assist law enforcement activities.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the database is “essential” for contacting or locating people “in harm’s way”.

An investigation by Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2011 found there were systemic issues with Telstra’s compliance with IPND rules.

At the time, the telco was fined $2.5 million for failing to comply with its obligations on nearly 850,000 occasions.

TELSTRA Shop Generics
Telstra has been fined $300,000 for failing to provide accurate details of thousands of customers. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

The company promised a significant effort to ensure future compliance.

However, in September last year, Telstra notified ACMA it had found further issues as part of its monitoring arrangements.

An investigation into the incident found Telstra failed to provide accurate customer information on another 19,000 occasions between October 2010 and August 2022.

This included 600 occasions where silent numbers were incorrectly flagged for listing in directory services.

The company also failed to provide over 200 customers with a copy of their IPND information within the required time frame.

TELSTRA Shop Generics
The company failed on 19,000 occasions to share accurate customer information. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

“The ACMA expects all telcos to have and maintain effective processes to meet these critical obligations, especially as we head into the bushfire season in Australia,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“We will keep Telstra focused on fixing these longstanding issues and giving consumers confidence that their data is being accurately recorded.”

A Telstra spokesperson apologised to customers for the incident and said they are working to improve their systems and processes.

“People’s privacy and safety is paramount and we’re sorry this happened,” the spokesperson said.

Telstra has been fined $303,000 for the compliance failure and has also accepted an independent review of its IPND compliance uplift.

They must also check the accuracy of their data each quarter and report to the ACMA.

If Telstra fails to comply in the future, the ACMA can commence proceedings in the Federal Court.